Defending champions against underdog challenger, a true David vs. Goliath meeting as France, the 2018 title holders take on Morocco, the first African nation to ever reach the World Cup semifinals.
Les Bleus managed to squeak by a tough challenge from England thanks to Harry Kane’s late missed penalty, but they’ll have a very different challenge on their hands up next.
Morocco sport a patchwork squad, beset with injuries, but the Atlas Lions have banded together to sport exceptional and surprising depth. They are boosted by a quasi-home field advantage, as their fans have flocked to Qatar in droves to create a stunning atmosphere.
Will France move to the precipice of a World Cup double, or will Morocco graduate from history-maker to true title contender?
France vs. Morocco odds
Once again, Morocco face long underdog odds. That has not fazed them to this point, as Morocco have been at least 3/1 underdogs in every single positive result they’ve achieved so far.
They have also been extremely defensive, and thus the odds suggest they will struggle to find the back of the net, yet that didn’t stop them from hitting Portugal on the counter. France, for all their offensive firepower, still can’t overwhelm the organization of Morocco’s defense which swings the under in heavy favor.
France vs. Morocco: Things to know
The pre-tournament absences of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Mike Maignan, Christopher Nkunuk, Presnel Kimpembe, and Karim Benzema haven’t proven nearly as meaningful as previously believed. Olivier Giroud has replaced Benzema as prime goalscorer with aplomb, while Theo Hernandez has stepped in for his stricken brother Lucas Hernandez at left-back well after the latter’s torn ACL in the group stage opener.
Morocco have a number of issues on the injury front. The most concerning is to captain Romain Saiss, who was reportedly carrying an injury into the Portugal game and had to be stretchered off in the second half. Noussair Mazraoui and Naif Aguerd both missed the Portugal match with injuries of their own. However, Morocco’s strength has been in their surprising depth. Yahia Attiyat Allah filled the massive shoes of Mazraoui’s absence admirably, while Badr Banoune came on for Saiss and held the line.
France vs. Morocco key stats
Antoine Griezmann has created the most chances (17) of any player at the 2022 World Cup, and has the highest expected assists (2.94 xA). The next closest player on the expected assists chart is Jamal Musiala at 1.86.
Achraf Hakimi has attempted the most tackles (19) of any player at the World Cup, and has the second-most successful tackles (15). His full-back teammate Noussair Mazraoui has 13 tackles and eight successful, putting him sixth and seventh respectively.
No team has made back-to-back World Cup finals since Brazil in 1994 and 1998, while no team has repeated as World Cup champion since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. No consecutive World Cup finals in history have ever featured the same two teams.
France vs. Morocco match facts
Date: Wednesday, December 14
Kickoff Time: 2:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm GMT / 6:00 am AEDT (Thu, Dec. 15)
Location: Al Bayt Stadium
Official: Cesar Ramos (Mexico)
France vs. Morocco prediction
Moneyline lean: France (-185)
Against the spread lean: France -0.5 (-200)
Score prediction: France 1-0 Morocco
It is going to be brutally difficult for France to break Morocco down, that much is clear.
Despite many of us doubting Morocco’s ability to keep Portugal off the board, the African nation only went and blanked their European foes across 90 minutes despite a host of injuries to key players. Therefore, we’re no longer doubting the ability of this quasi-home team to perform.
It will take a Herculean effort to get past Morocco’s organization and structure, but this is no green squad France possess. While Portugal and Spain deployed young, inexperienced sides against Morocco who struggled to adapt in a pressure situation, France will know exactly how to attack their opponents.
At the risk of doubting Morocco a third time, it’s tough to imagine the Atlas Lions advancing to the World Cup final. An early goal will be key for France here, as the longer they go without scoring, the more panic will set in and the more Morocco will grow in belief.
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