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Sport Preview: World Cup Semi-Finals - Weds 14th Dec

World Cup Semi Finals: France v Morocco

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France vs Morocco: Weds 14th Dec, 7:00pm

While Cristiano Ronaldo was heading for the tunnel in tears on Saturday, memories of Euro 2004 came flooding back.

Could Morocco, who had seen off Portugal in the Qatar quarter-finals, do the unthinkable – “do a Greece” and win a major trophy?

“Yes,” is the answer, because coach Walid Regragui has a team built on the firmest of foundations.

Morocco shocked the world on Saturday with a hard-fought but ultimately deserved 1-0 win over Ronaldo and Co.

And a repeat of Greece’s unbelievable European Championship win is definitely a possibility.

Then the rags of the tournament, Greece lost to Russia at the group stage before winning each of their knockout games 1-0 to beat Ronaldo and Portugal in the final.

There are similarities between Otto Rehhagel’s Greece side and Morocco, who are the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Morocco, though, look a far better side than Greece, who started out as 150/1 shots 18 years ago, were. But like Greece were in Portugal all those years ago, Morocco are dogged and determined, with Regragui claiming his side are the best team for passion and desire.

That has certainly been abundant in their matches so far, with just once goal conceded. They are a very tight defensive unit that France, like Portugal, will find hard to break down.

And in goalkeeper Yassine Bounou they have a man continuing his form from last season in LaLiga when he was voted the league’s best goalkeeper.

Sofyan Amrabat’s deep-lying midfield role has been crucial in protecting Morocco’s back four, with Achraf Hakimi proving he is one of the world’s best at right-back.

His forays from deep have been effective for Morocco, while Hakim Ziyech leads the way for the team with crosses, shots on target and passes. His link-up play with Hakimi is crucial.

France for their part have moved into the last four of the competition with Didier Deschamps admitting Les Bleus “got a bit lucky” against a strong England side.

England managed to shut out the threat of Kylian Mbappe and Hakimi is more than capable of doing a similar job on the PSG star.

But France proved they have other threats, mainly in the form of Olivier Giroud. And Morocco will be best served in stopping his service at source rather than trying to stop the AC Milan star inside the six-yard box.

But Morocco will not have seen too much from France to worry them, even though the bookies have them as 1/4 shots to get to Sunday’s final.

Both sides saw less possession than their opponents in the quarter-finals, but France are expected to dictate the game at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.

That will not be a problem for the Atlas Lions, who have, bar Costa Rica, seen the least possession at the tournament. Still, they have stopped Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal from scoring.

Another low-scoring game is expected for Morocco, who have seen only one of their five World Cup matches go over 2.5 goals. And Morocco have enough match-winners to see off Les Bleus by the odd goal.



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