|BEAU-COUPE: Theo Hernandez's fifth minute volley brought France their second consecutive World Cup Final. — AFP/VNA Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Defending champions France are through to their second consecutive World Cup Final, after beating Morocco 2-0.
Walid Regragui's men have been this tournament's surprise package. They conceded only one goal before the semi-final, and their defence has disappointed powerhouses Belgium, Spain, and Portugal on their way to the final four.
However, going up against the World Champions has never been an easy task.
Despite rumours that Noussair Mazraoui, Hakim Ziyech and captain Romain Saiss would miss the match, all three started. France on the other hand were without starters Adrien Rabiot and Davot Upamecano due to illness. Youssouf Fofana and Ibrahima Konate stepped in.
Morocco started the match, as usual, playing slowly and defensively. Although with 55,000 fans travelling to the Al Bayt Stadium cheering them on, the Atlas Lions conceded first.
In the 5th minute, a through ball from Raphael Varane found Antoine Griezmann free in the box. Griezmann's cross met Theo Hernandez, who volleyed into the back of Yassine Bounou's net.
This is the first time Morocco has conceded from an opposition player since June.
France did not turn down the pressure, and Olivier Giroud had two golden chances to double France's lead in the first half but lacked the finesse to convert.
Things got worse for Morocco as captain Romain Saiss went down injured. As Nayef Aguerd did not start due to injury, Morocco has to continue without their best centre-back duo.
But the Moroccans did have their fair share of chances. Azzedine Ounahi's long-range effort almost went in the far corner of France's net, had it not been for Hugo Lloris's talent.
Coming into the second half, Morocco pressured France into their half, however Attiatt-Allah, Boufa or Ziyech could not beat the towering Ibrahima Konate.
Superstar Kylian Mbappe did not have his best night, as he was tightly marked by the Moroccan defenders. Despite not scoring, Mbappe still helped put the final nail in the coffin, when he dribbled past four defenders and passed to Randal Kolo Muani, who put the ball in the empty net.
Despite losing, Morocco's efforts still made fans of both sides clap for Hakim Ziyech and his teammates, as they kept trying until the last minute.
The Atlas Lions' fairytale journey did not produce a miraculous ending, but inspired many other national teams, especially when the next World Cup is to be expanded, giving chance to many developing football nations.
Morocco will have one more chance to make history in a rematch against Croatia on Saturday for the bronze medal.
For France, coming back after a disappointing 2021 run, all the way to the final is remarkable, but still not enough for a winner such as Deschamps.
On Sunday, the King of Football and the current King of World Cup will face off. On Sunday, the present in Lionel Messi and the future in Kylian Mbappe will also go head-to-head.
What a World Cup Final worth waiting for. — VNS