Johannesburg – The 2018 World Cup winners France will go into their semi-final clash against Morocco as favourites. Les Bleus have more experience playing in the latter stages of major tournaments and also boast a better squad, which gives them the edge on paper.
However, as we have seen a few times at the Qatar World Cup, the best team on paper does not always win. Morocco will be a tough opponent for Didier Deschamps’ team and have proven that they do not fear anybody.
Not many gave the Atlas Lions a chance of progressing beyond the group stage before the World Cup started. They responded by winning Group H which contained number two ranked team Belgium, 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia and one of North America’s fast rising teams in Canada.
After the group stage, Walid Regragui’s team went on to inflict defeat upon former champions Spain before following that up with a well-earned 1-0 win over a star-studded Portugal side, which entered the game on the back of a 6-1 thumping of Switzerland.
Regragui’s team will make things difficult for Kylian Mbappe & Co. Their strength lies in their defence. They have only conceded one goal in Qatar, which came against arguably the weakest team they have played so far – during their 2-1 win over Canada.
It is likely that France will boss possession in the semi, but as we have seen in this tournament, it is entirely possible to outperform and outplay a team despite not enjoying most of the ball. As the saying goes, “it’s not really about having possession, but what matters is what you do with it.”
A way for Morocco to win is to possibly take the game to penalties where anything can happen, but they can also punish the French on the counter-attack as they did against Portugal.
Morocco can also take inspiration from their African counterparts Tunisia who inflicted a 1-0 defeat upon the French in the group stage, albeit in a dead rubber where Deschamps opted to rest many of his first-team regulars and instead hand playing time to fringe players.
Morocco also stands to benefit as several of their players have undergone development or played in France, and so will potentially have inside knowledge on Deschamps’ players. Five players in Regragui’s camp are based in France, which includes star performers Sofiane Boufal (Angers) and Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain) with the latter widely considered to be one of the best right-backs in the world.