Before the World Cup, there was the fear of the champions’ curse.

It referred to every World Cup winner since France won it in 1998 going out in the group stage four years later. France went out early in 2002. The winners that year Brazil did manage to make it out of the round of 16 in 2006 but were knocked out in the quarterfinals by France. Italy won the tournament that year and was knocked out in the group stages in 2010. Spain won it that year and went home early in 2014 as Germany won it all. The Germans, of course, couldn’t make it past the group stage in 2018.

There was the fear that this would happen to France again. However, curses are meant to be broken just like how Stanley Yelnats and Zero broke the curse of Madam Zeroni in Holes. Not only did France get out of their group, they won it and beat Poland and England to reach the semi-finals.

Morocco is the story of the World Cup. They will be remembered for years to come as they topped Group F and beat Spain on penalties and Portugal 1-0 to reach the semi-finals. Morocco is the first team from Africa to go that far.

However, they couldn’t do another David beating Goliath performance on Wednesday but it looked like they could’ve.

Thoughts on the game

France came out flying. By flying, I mean they scored the fastest goal in a World Cup semi-final (four minutes and 39 seconds) since Vava scored for Brazil in 1958. 

Greizmann started the play with his run into the box. He tried to find Kylian Mbappe who couldn’t get the shot through. However, Morroco’s defenders were so focused on Greizmann and Mbappe that they forgot about Theo Hernandez who beat Yassine Bounou cleanly.

If you thought France was going to blow out Morocco, you haven’t been paying attention. The Moroccans have been very good defensively throughout the World Cup and they weren’t going to go down quietly.

Morocco’s captain, Romain Saïss has been immense at the back for them but he had to come off in the 20th minute due to an apparent injury. But that wasn’t much of a problem for Morocco in this game.

They defended well on France’s counters and set pieces. It helped that France kept turning the ball and missed chances. Mbappe, Greizmann, Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud let the attack but Morocco was there to stop their runs.

The best example was this tackle on Mbappe from Sofyan Amrabat. He managed to catch up to the French speedster to deliver a harsh, but clean tackle.

I really hate it when teams decide to go super defensive or in soccer terms, park the bus when being only up only by one. That is what France did for the majority of the game. That allowed Morocco to look very threatening.

Hakim Ziyech was leading the attack with his passes and crosses. Unfortunately, Huge Lloris was tough for Morocco to beat and they ended up missing the net. Morocco’s best chance was this bicycle kick by Jawad El Yamiq late in the first half that was saved by Lloris and hit the post. As the broadcast said, you don’t often see defenders do bicycle kicks. If this went in…

France looked like one of my villages on Clash of Clans. (Was addicted to it in eighth grade.) They were being raided by the Moroccan defenders. Morocco was applying so much pressure. They were moving the ball well, and looked for open areas but again, they couldn’t get the ball to go in.

Unlike my Clash of Clans villages, France managed to hold on. Greizmann is my man of the match not only because of what he did in the attack but because he helped out defensively by clearing the ball and making tackles in the French box while Morocco was attacking.

The French booked their ticket to the World Cup Final thanks to Randal Kolo Muani. He was just on the pitch for 44 seconds, talk about making an instant impact. That assist by Mbappe was also a work of art.

Morocco was a great story and won our hearts. Their head coach Walid Regragui was appointed in September and he took Morocco to their highest-ever finish in the World Cup. Incredible. Morocco played well in pretty much every game and is now a country to watch in the soccer world.

Meme of the day

Once again, Morocco was too focused on tackling Mbappe, they forgot about Hernandez and Kolo Muani. Mbappe’s mind games worked

Stat of the day

I believe the correct word to use here is: Nice.

Realization of the day


Checking in on Paris

I still can’t get over how goofy-sounding French sirens are. It’s a long night for the Paris police and cops all across France especially considering the large Moroccan population there.

Please, oh please

Now I would love for the final on Sunday to be similar to that game in 2018. That was a classic and hopefully, we’ll get another classic on Sunday.

Up next

Morocco will face Croatia in the third-place match on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 a.m. Pacific time.

On Sunday, it is the world’s biggest game: The World Cup Final between France and Argentina. A powerhouse vs the defending champions, Lionel Messi vs Kylian Mbappe. One country can be the first repeat World Cup winner since Pele and Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962 while the other is looking for their first World Cup since 1986.

One superstar is looking for his second World Cup at the age of just 24 while the other is going to be playing in his final game on the big stage and a win would boost the narrative of him being the GOAT.

The eyes of the world will be on the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar. From Vancouver to New York to Brisbane to Tokyo to Cairo and of course, Buenos Aires to Paris, fans all over the world will be on the edge of their seats as one team looks to make history.

This World Cup in Qatar has had a lot of controversies before it and during it, (migrant workers, lack of LGBTQ rights etc) as well as tragedy. (The deaths of journalists Grant Wahl and Khalid al-Misslam ) We can’t forget those on Sunday while we are watching the big game. As much as we love soccer, those issues and events can’t be ignored while we all watch the final.

It’s going to be the clash of the titans and the 18-carat gold trophy of Jules Rimet will be gleaming  but for only one of these teams.

By joshuarey

I am the head blog editor at the Area 51 Sports network. You can find me writing about the Whitecaps and other sports here. I also host the Terminal City FC Podcast with Nathan Durec I am also a site expert at The Canuck Way and a graduate of Langara's Journalism program When I am not writing you can find me surfing the internet, watching movies, listening to rock and rap music or eating pizza.

132 thoughts on “World Cup Matchday 20: France returns to final by ending Morocco’s miracle run”
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