DOHA ( Associated Press) — Kylian Mbappe will be reunited with good friend Achraf Hakimi at this World Cup.
It won’t be like last time, when the French star visited his team-mate from Paris Saint-Germain at the Moroccan team’s Concentration Hotel in the center of Doha.
On Wednesday, Mbappe will be marked by Hakimi in the World Cup semi-finals. Thus the French attacker will have as his main obstacle to advance on the left flank a player he respects and admires.
Mbappe wrote on his Twitter account in January, “Achraf Hakimi, the best right-back in the world.”
It will be a high-flying game. Both the players were able to achieve the historic feat with their respective teams.
Against Mbappe Hakimi—the tournament’s top scorer with five goals in five fixtures—against the outstanding talent in the best World Cup defense who has conceded only one goal—an own goal.
A beautiful friendship began in 2021, when the Moroccan player joined Mbappé from Inter Milan at PSG in July 2021, through a transfer that will amount to 60 million euros ($63 million).
The two footballers were born a few weeks apart in 1998, a few months after France won their first World Cup title. And after meeting at a French club, they immediately hit it off.
Hakimi has pointed out that they both share similar tastes in music and video games. Mbappe helped his Madrid friend learn French.
Hakimi is a devout Muslim. For the Eid Mubarak holiday this year, both the players recorded a video released by their club.
Hakimi directed Mbappe, who has family ties to Algeria – Morocco’s neighbor in North Africa – to try food from the Arab region.
The two usually rehearse the greeting and celebration they display when PSG scores a goal. Playing for a major club in French football gives him plenty of opportunities to show off those moves.
“It’s easy to play with a player like him,” Hakimi said of Embappé. “When you give him the ball, you know it’s going to make a difference.”
Mbappe has effectively made his mark in this World Cup, especially with wins against Denmark in the group stage and against Poland in the round of 16.
In the quarter-finals on Saturday, Mbappe was effectively marked by England’s speedy right-back Kyle Walker. He only had one clear opportunity before goal, which led to a high and deflected shot.
Nevertheless, he was involved in the movement that led to France’s first goal. The second and decider for the 2–1 victory came after a corner on the left, a move that Mbappe contributed to.
The Moroccan defense is looking like an impenetrable wall. So far none of their European opponents – Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal – have managed to score against them in four full games, plus extra time in the Spanish case.
According to FIFA statistics, Hakimi has helped limit opponents to just 10 shots on goal combined. Canada got a goal in a 2–1 victory over Morocco, thanks to an own goal by Nayef Eguard.
Mbappe, meanwhile, has had 10 own shots on goal for a French team whose total of 11 goals is the best among the four semi-finalists.
In emphasis on Wednesday, Mbappe will continue to chase his goal of joining Pele as the youngest player to win two World Cup titles. France could also be the first team since Pelé’s own Brazil in 1962 to have their title revalidated.
Hakimi wants his team to become the first team to play a World Cup final in Africa. In that case, it would be measured against Cressia or Argentina, whose star Lionel Messi also plays for Qatar-owned PSG.
May best friends win.