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France Defeats Morocco, Marches on to World Cup Final

French players celebrate with teammates after the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.

France advanced to the World Cup final Wednesday after a hard-fought victory over Morocco, ending the North African team's historic run at the World Cup.

France beat Africa’s first-ever semifinalists 2-0, with Mbappé playing a part in goals by Theo Hernandez in the fifth minute and then substitute Randal Kolo Muani in the 79th.

Hernandez opened the scoring for France by successfully defeating Bounou of Morocco with a close-range shot. Mbappé helped to create the goal because his shot deflected off a defender and into the path of Hernandez, who let the ball bounce before driving a downward effort into the net from a tight angle.

Typically a defense-first team, Morocco was forced to come out and play and, roared on by tens of thousands of fans who dominated the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium, the team pinned back France.

Jawad El Yamiq hit the post with an overhead kick in the 44th minute and France’s defenders had to make a number of last-ditch tackles in front of their own goal.

Mbappé enjoyed more space as Morocco tired and, after dribbling past two defenders, his deflected shot was tapped in by Kolo Muani, who had been on the field for less than a minute.

In spite of Morocco's persistent efforts to exert pressure on France in the second half, the French team was able to control the ball for the rest of the game.

Morocco did break ground for Africa and generated an outpouring of pride among Arab nations after topping a group containing Croatia and Belgium and eliminating two more high-profile European teams — Spain and Portugal — in the knockout stage. They gave France a far-from-easy ride, too.

Morocco will play Croatia for third place on Dec. 17, while France will head into Sunday's title match against Argentina, looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.