JOR, Qatar ( Associated Press) — Yassin Bouno spread his arms in a desperate attempt to put something in the ball’s path, but to no avail.
French substitute Randall Kilo Mouani had come on seconds earlier and his first touch ensured the defending champions advanced to their second straight World Cup final and ended Morocco’s great fightback once and for all.
France won 2-0 and will face Argentina for the title on Sunday.
But the two-time champions could heave a sigh of relief only in the 79th minute of the semi-final played at the Al Bayt Stadium.
“My players gave everything they had,” said Moroccan coach Walid Regragui. “They went as far as they could. It’s hard for them to take it right now. They wanted to rewrite the history books, but you can’t win a World Cup with miracles.”
The team that has had the most unpredictable history in this year’s World Cup got off to a bad start. Morocco lost two starters and conceded a goal to an opposition player for the first time in the tournament – all in less than 21 minutes.
Even after Theo Hernandez scored after five minutes, a wave of red jerseys dominated the atmosphere, overwhelming the French supporters in the stands.
As inspiring as the story of Morocco, who became the first African team to play in the semi-finals, the fans who cheered them along have been a fundamental part of this unforgettable journey.
The tone was clear before the start of the game as he received the French players with his distinctive deafening whistle. It grew louder when he sang the French national anthem, practically drowning out the sound of horns.
The noise reached other levels when the French anthem was heard.
Everything is possible, having been the theme of Morocco. Even the prospect of facing defending champion and superstar Kylian Mbappe could not dampen this expectation.
Morocco had already made history by joining the United States and South Korea as the only teams outside the two major confederations to reach this stage. It is also the first Arab country to play in the semi-finals.
The team led their group which included Croatia, the 2018 finalists, and Belgium, who were ranked second in the world rankings. They advanced to the knockout stage after defeating 2010 champions Spain and Portugal.
“If France wins (the final) it will be incredible because we can say we lost against the world champions,” Regargui said.