Morocco’s journey in the World Cup ended on Wednesday as France defeated the African side 2-0 at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.
The Atlas Lions resilient run ended in the semi-final after they defeated a Ronaldo-led Portugal in the quarter-final to advance to the semis, making them the first African team and Arabian team to ever reach a World Cup final.
Theo Hernandez scored the opening goal early in the fifth minute of the game, while substitute Randal Kolo Muani sealed the win for the European side in the 79th minute.
Although Morocco didn’t make it easy for France, they failed to level up with the defending champions and were unable to find the back of the net even after 13 shots and three shots on target.
Morocco will face Croatia in a third place play-off on Saturday, December 17, 2022.
Morocco’s coach, Walid Regragui, prior to the quarter-finals match against Portugal had said the whole of Africa was solidly behind Morocco going into the match after they sent Spain home in a fabulous win in the round of 16 knockout stage.
“We have nothing to lose. The challenge is to do as well as we did in the previous games,” AFP reports Regragui as saying on the eve of the match against Portugal.
“We want to show that Africa deserves to be here, Morocco deserves to be here.
“We have a whole people behind us, a continent behind us and the Arab world behind us. That’s a lot of energy behind us. We’re going to try and do everything we can.
“We can do it, we can make history again. It (the support) can push us, help us actually to play with this pressure, not to make any mistakes,” the coach said.
Morocco up until their semi-final game against France, had the best defensive record in the tournament, having conceded only one goal in their five matches.
They finished top of Group F ahead of European giants, Belgium and Croatia as well as North America team, Canada. They defeated Belgium 2-0 in their opening match, defeated Canada 2-1 and had a 0-0 barren draw with Croatia sending them into the last 16, where they knocked Spain out on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes match.
The defeat ended a six-game unbeaten run at the World Cup for the North African team and Morocco has definitely set the bar higher for all other African teams.
France on the other hand are the first nation to reach back-to-back World Cup finals since Brazil in 2002 and first European country to do so since Germany in 1990.
France have reached the World Cup final for a fourth time.
Prior to the game against Morocco, French defender, Raphael Varane, had said that the European team would not take any chances nor underestimate Morocco.
Having edged out England in the last eight, Les Bleus were strong favourites to return to the final.
“We have enough experience in the team to not fall into that trap,” said Varane, one of the survivors of France’s victorious 2018 World Cup campaign, when asked about the danger of over-confidence.
“We know Morocco are not here by chance. It is up to us experienced players to make sure everyone is prepared for another battle.” – Agency report.