Diary of the World Cup 2022: Day 25

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Picture: beautiful pictures

France 2 – 0 Morocco

What if you are only Moroccan Moroccan?

That’s the question Didier Deschamps and France asked themselves before and during today’s semi-final. The answer came back, “Going to the final.”

History will look back at the most successful era of French football. Two consecutive World Cup finals do the trick, though Zidane’s era has two finals out of three and a European championship at it. Either way, it’s an interesting matter when you’re trying to figure out which of your historic and wildly successful teams is the better team. But the 35,000-foot visibility would ignore its peculiarity. People would look at the roster and conclude, “Oh sure, it was a team that was too good to not be as successful.” Only those of us who have been here will remember that most of France is boring as hell. But that’s okay, the flag flies forever.

In 2018, aside from the frantic game against Argentina that just went that way mainly because that Argentinian team was so full of holes, France was just a really hard to beat team that did just enough on the other end to win. win. And then the final was of course a lot of fun. But mainly Deschamps focuses the whole team on defence, which when you have N’Golo Kante in midfield acting as a force, is a pretty good idea. It’s better when you have Kylian Mbappe to counterattack.

At Euro 2021, Deschamps left his natural instincts behind and tried to incorporate a more fluid attacking formation, especially since Karim Benzema was back in the starting XI. They were weak and fell in the first knockout round, bickering in true French style (or at least t…the heir is).

So you can’t really blame Deschamps for getting back to the form four years ago, especially after he lost Pogba, Benzema and Christopher Nkunku to injury. France showed a “just enough to win” result throughout this tournament, which was clearly a relief against Morocco.

Getting a goal in the 5th minute helps. What Morocco finds is that Portugal or Spain don’t have Antoine Griezmann, nor Mbappe, and although both teams feel they should have had a Raphael Varane to make a delicious pass. him from defence, but they never did. Morocco is clearly worried, because in the quarterfinals they have nothing to lose. But once you’ve made it this far, you’re one step away from having a chance, even if you’re not supposed to be here. This probably contributed to Jawad El Yamiq going a bit far to block Griezmann’s pass, causing him to sniff and let the Frenchman reach the box.

It’s like a goalkeeper’s fault. The bounce hangs in the air for a long time and Bounou shows up at first but stops, and it certainly feels like if he maintained his ferocity he just yanked it out of the air first. when Theo Hernandez could hit a half-volley home.

This is the last thing you want to do against France. They are happy to drop you off, sit back and challenge you to overcome them. This is a much higher number than what Morocco has ever held the ball in this tournament. Their anxiety didn’t help as they lost the ball or were overturned quite often in the first half. And while they find space and fun on either side, the bet France is making is that you won’t cost them before Mbappe leaves space behind you. Which he did in the first half, created a great chance for Giroud, and Giroud also hit the post during the break. Although there were 40 minutes from the time France scored until halftime, and Morocco held the majority of possession, the two best opportunities still belonged to France. And Morocco’s best chance comes from a reverse bike kick.

France’s plan in the first half was for Mbappe and Griezmann to both attempt to move high on either side of Sofyan Amrabat while their full-backs provided width fading in the second half as Morocco held more and more of the ball. Morocco were also indirectly boosted by a forced change as Saiss had to leave the field due to injury and Morocco added a fifth of the midfield to replace him. But France has bet that Morocco, though determined, is a limited party. They put everything on the right wing, where Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech live, and where Mbappe doesn’t provide much defensive support, but Morocco is really limited by a few crosses or cuts but never find target. Prior to the injury time dispute, Morocco had created only 0.32 xG, and that was the lead in all but five minutes. They never found anything through the middle.

Part of that is because Ibrahima Konate, who wouldn’t have started if Dayot Upamecano hadn’t been sick, became the Great Terminator in France’s defence. The stats say he’s made 4 saves, 5 intercepts and 4 more recovers, and every time the Moroccans get past France’s left wing, they’ll see him standing in the area. area near the vertical column. That means every Moroccan attack has a clear end point.

When Deschamps moved Mbappe into the center to bring in Marcus Thuram in the 65th minute, who would have the energy to support the left defence and still join the attack on the counter-attack, Morocco couldn’t even get a shot for it. to overtime. . Their main road down to the right had been cut off, and they had no other idea. A great story as they have been, as much noise as their fans make in every stadium they take over, the story remains how far Ziyech and Hakimi can take them in attack. The French cut that off and they ran out of ideas.
This is what France does, and they will always do it more in the first two legs. As much talent as possible, they’ll either drop deep to give Mbappe more space, or they’ll keep Griezmann floating around when they have the ball and he’ll end up getting the ball where you can’t cover. whether it’s in half space as in the match against Morocco or out as in the game against England. And he will make it worth it with the toys he has in the box.

France-Argentina is nonetheless the more intriguing final, a real heavyweight clash that we haven’t had at this stage since…1998? 2006? Two great powers, each with one of the better versions of the national team they’ve ever had. There is a disappointing side to assuming that this damned tournament, held at the wrong time, in the wrong place, will turn out to be as good a finale as it could have been. But we’ve long since abandoned the idea that good things never happen to bad people, and we also need to enjoy our pleasure where we can.

Goals for the day

It’s not like there’s a lot to choose from, so to reiterate:

While I thought Bounou could have done more, Hernandez got nothing, who somehow managed to get through the situation despite the ball being at shoulder height. And he has the ability to make anyone on the line unfit.

A eulogy for the departed

This World Cup is full of everything, good and bad, and although it will end with a meeting of two of the most beloved contenders, Morocco remains steadfast in its view that “anything is fine”. could happen”, which is not always the case in these tournaments. You have to think that will continue to happen as the gap in talent and coaches between countries continues to narrow. Maybe talent still wins at the last minute, but hopefully that’s a sign that the wildcard edge may continue to encroach closer and closer to that end point. More and more teams know that with a good plan that maximizes everyone on the team, it’s the little things that help bridge the differences between teams.

Perhaps what I like most about Morocco is the reminder of how important the game is to so many parts of the world. I mean, we always knew it was global game, but sometimes you really need to watch it. We don’t see much of Morocco, and we don’t see them in a place where their residents are more eager or more likely to travel or where they are already inhabited. We are used to stadiums being taken over by Argentines, Brazilians or British. We are constantly reminded how important football is to the culture there.

But seeing, and even hearing more, the Moroccans take over stadiums in Qatar, and the footage of watching parties in the country reminds us that it’s pretty central there, too. This is not a fad that the country embraces just because the team did well. It feels like something pent-up, perhaps across Africa or the Arab world or both, is being released.

That’s the most cliché thing about the sport, but that’s why the World Cup is. The fact is that this sport is ingrained in the blood of so many different places, not only by distance but also by culture. Morocco is a very different country than Argentina or here. However, it can get stuck like almost anywhere else in the world by this stupid, random game. There really isn’t anything else linked so much. It is the rarest phenomenon.

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