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SPORTS UPDATE

France end Morocco World Cup dream to set up Argentina final

France will face Argentina in the World Cup final after the defending champions edged past Morocco in the last four with a nervy 2-0 victory.

Theo Hernandez gave Les Blues an early lead, the first opposition player to score against Morocco all tournament, but any hopes they had of that being the start of a comfortable night proved to be badly missplaced.

A brilliant overhead kick from Jawad El Yamiq nearly got the Atlas Lions level before the break, and the pressure continued into the second-half with France pinned back. Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech were particularly bright, but Morocco could not fashion out a big chance.

Randal Kolo Muani’s strike, seconds after coming on, ensured France go into Sunday’s final looking to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups, while Lionel Messi goes in search of his crowning moment for Argentina.

Morocco named Nayed Aguerd and Romain Saiss in their starting lineup, despite both being major injury doubts, and within 20 minutes neither were on the pitch. Aguerd did not make the first whistle, replaced just ahead of kick-off, while Saiss limped off as it became clear the captain was a long way from fitness.

By then France had the lead, Hernandez putting Les Blues in front within five minutes. Kylian Mbappe’s blocked shot bounced up at the back post for Hernandez, who finished really well with an acrobatic effort.

Olivier Giroud twice went close, first smashing an effort against the post before firing wide from inside the box, but Morocco carried a real threat themselves.

El Yamiq almost produced an outrageous equaliser just before the break, as his overhead kick was kept out by a combination of Hugo Lloris and the woodwork.

Morocco were much the better team in the second-half, Hernandez having a particularly miserable time of things at left-back with Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi doubling up on him and Mbappe not too keen to help his team-mate out.

READ ALSO: Qatar 2022: Saiss, Aguerd start for Morocco, France make two changes

The clear-cut chances did not come though, and France ruthlessly punished them. Much like the first goal it came from a deflected Mbappe shot, this time falling perfectly into the path of Kolo Muani who could not miss with his first touch.

Morocco continued to threaten in the final moments, though Jules Kounde’s goal-line clearance denied them even a consolation, and they can go into Saturday’s third-place play-off against Croatia full of pride.

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