France overcomes Morocco, will meet Argentina in the final of the World Cup with the possibility of repeating itself

France overcomes Morocco, will meet Argentina in the final of the World Cup with the possibility of repeating itself

France overcomes Morocco, will meet Argentina in the final of the World Cup with the possibility of repeating itself

AL KHOR, Qatar — It took a twist of fate for Theo Hernandez to enter the field in this World Cup, and a twist of the torso to send France back to the final.

Were it not for an injury to brother Lucas in France’s opening match of the tournament against Australia, Hernandez probably would have been stranded on the bench at Al Bayt Stadium against Morocco on Wednesday. Instead, he was able to score the first decisive goal of a tense and entertaining semi-final after just five minutes.

Theo Hernandez opens the scoring

Theo Hernandez opens the scoring

Theo Hernandez’s shot in the 5th minute put France ahead in the semi-final against Morocco.

Milan are not hiring fringe talent and France coach Didier Deschamps is not selecting them. Even so, while Hernandez is an outstanding player, it’s also fair to suggest that he may be the least technically gifted member of the team’s starting lineup. It’s not a miss for him, it’s a reflection of how much raw skill flows through the French team.

Antoine Griezmann’s run found space when defender Jawad El Yamiq failed to intercept, before a low cross found Kylian Mbappé, who set up unmarked left-back Hernandez at the far post.

Hernandez performed a feat of gymnastics that would make a striker proud, tilting his body to the side, lifting his foot to hair height and hitting the ball into the only gap left by Moroccan goalkeeper Bono.

At the other end of the evening, with 11 minutes remaining and Morocco pressing, some trickery by Mbappé in the box brought in Randal Kolo Muani, who had been brought in as a substitute just a minute earlier.

Randal Kolo Muani scores the 2-0

Randal Kolo Muani scores the 2-0

France took the lead by two goals in the 80th minute.

The 2-0 score set up a successful final, pitting international football’s most complete squad against its greatest player. Deschamps’ France won it all four years ago in Russia and have rarely appeared in trouble in the knockout stages.

Against Lionel Messi & Argentina (Sunday, 10am ET on FOX & the FOX Sports App), The Blues will have the chance to become the first champion to repeat since Pele’s Brazil in 1962.

Yet the margin may also have been slightly unkind to Morocco, who brought so much energy and excitement to this event by becoming the first African team to reach a semi-final.

When Hernandez scored the fastest goal in a World Cup semi-final since 1958, it was the first time Walid Regragui’s Morocco had been behind in the tournament.

However, any assumptions that conceding so soon would demoralize the North African team would prove false.

Highlights France-Morocco

Highlights France-Morocco

France earns chance to become first repeat champion in six decades.

Before long, they had a real foothold in the game, despite the deficit. Azzedine Ounahi’s strong low shot from outside the box forced a fine save from Hugo Lloris, and the Tottenham goalkeeper was again called upon to fend off an acrobatic bicycle kick from El Yamiq to deny what would have been a classic World Cup goal .

Olivier Giroud hit the outside of the post with a strong effort and Mbappé was causing his usual level of threat, but France had to be content – and perhaps grateful for – holding on to their slim lead into the interval.

Morocco had no choice but to chase after him in the second half. What a dream run it was, beating Spain on penalties and Portugal – including Cristiano Ronaldo – in the quarter-finals. If it hadn’t been for too many wasted half chances, and with a little more composure in the box, it could have gone differently.

Hakim Ziyech made trouble with his ingenuity, but neither Youssef En-Nesyri nor Yahya Attiat-Allah could take advantage of it.

France had a momentary scare when Mbappé dropped into trouble midway through the second half, then again when the swift striker was trampled by a defender, prompting a stud swap but no major damage.

The new shoes clearly agreed with him. As more and more space opened up, a glittering run into the box put the game out of reach. Mbappé’s shot rebounded and Kolo Muani scored at the far post, to the dismay of the mob of raucous red-clad Moroccan fans.

France have not lost a knockout match at the World Cup since their 2014 quarter-final defeat by Germany. There were few signs here that it looked likely to change, although Messi and company will presumably have plenty to say on that Sunday.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @M Rogers FOX And sign up for the daily newsletter.

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