Msometimes a single touch of the ball is enough to change (almost) everything. In this case, it was the very first of the new substitute Kolo Muani. When the Eintracht Frankfurt professional was spot on in the 79th minute to push a cross from Mbappé over the line, all the tension escaped from al-Khor’s stadium. Where the Moroccan fans and their team had just given their all to somehow equalize after Hernández put France in the lead, the situation was now clear.
After the 2-0 victory of the Équipe Tricolore on Wednesday evening, this World Cup has its dream final from the point of view of the football establishment from Europe and South America when on Sunday (4:00 p.m. CET in the FAZ live ticker for the football World Cup, in the ARD and at MagentaTV) in Lusail France meets Argentina, Mbappé meets Messi, and the selection of Didier Deschamps offers the chance to be the first world champion since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend the title. “That was another tremendous match – and one thing is yet to come,” said Deschamps after the final whistle. And: “We are aiming for the title.” French President Emanuel Macron, who watched the game in the stands next to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, was braver in his choice of words: “We suffered sometimes, but we saw a very great team . We’re bringing the trophy home with us.”
Morocco as the Arab pride of this World Cup
However, it was a ticklish affair for the French than they could have hoped, especially after taking the lead early on. But in this game it was not clear for a long time whether the French quality, which sometimes flashed too coolly, or the Moroccan courage would prevail. In the end, the World Champion got away in a make or break game that atmospherically provided a climax to this World Cup even before the actual final: with a complete reversal of the previous colonial balance of power in the stands at al-Bayt Stadium.
The Moroccans were close to causing an emotional outburst on several occasions, most spectacularly with an overhead kick from El-Yamiq just before the break, but Walid Regragui’s side didn’t want to score their own goal, not even with a last big chance in added time . In Saturday’s third-place play-off against Croatia, however, there’s more than a consolation prize up for grabs for the first African team to reach a World Cup final, the Arab pride of this Arab World Cup.
Morocco had played football in Qatar for eight hours before that, not counting stoppage time, without having to accept a goal from an opponent. This time the clock was at 4:42 seconds when it happened. Regragui’s side had gotten off to a flying start, supported by almost everyone in the stadium, with just a small block of Frenchmen behind Hugo Lloris’ goal holding up the Tricolore colors.