DOHA ( Associated Press) – Morocco’s stunning and historic World Cup final will be its final test.
Africa’s first team in the World Cup semi-finals will face defending champions France and their star Kylian Mbappe, the ultimate reference of a new generation of soccer stars after the era dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Wednesday’s appointment has cultural and political connotations – Morocco was under a French protectorate between 1912 and 1956. It is prudent not to get carried away by the names of the players and the rankings of the teams before making predictions.
Morocco exceeded all expectations in Qatar after defeating Belgium, a semi-finalist four years ago, in the group stage. They then eliminated Spain and Portugal, the two great powers of European football, to reach the semi-finals.
No African or Arab team had gone that far.
This is one of the biggest revelations in the 92-year history of the World Cup and Morocco is not satisfied.
“They ask me if we can win the World Cup and I say why can’t we dream of winning the World Cup. There is no cost to dreaming,” said Moroccan coach Walid Regragui, who was born in France. Had happened “National teams are used to winning World Cups and we have faced great rivals, it was not easy for us.”
“Whoever touches us to play is going to be scared of us,” he said.
The defending champions come from overcoming their most demanding fence by defeating England in an intense duel in the quarter-finals, a match in which Mbappe was judicious.
No other player has scored more than his five goals and the star will be hard-pressed to increase his tally against Morocco, a team that has yet to concede a goal to an opponent this World Cup. In fact they have played in nine matches since Regaragui was appointed in August. The only goal they conceded was an own goal by defender Nayef Aguird in the match against Canada in the group stage.
Morocco braces for significant casualties due to injuries – Egurd and Romain Sass, also a central defender, are doubtful for Wednesday – but Regargui’s strategy relies more on collective work than individuals.
France face the difficult mission of breaking Morocco’s defensive lockout at the Al Bayt stadium, where French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to be in attendance, along with thousands of Moroccan fans decked in green and red. Morocco feel at home in this World Cup, something that makes it possible to level the circumstances.
Les Bleus start off as great favorites because of the lineage of their stars and experience. The team boasts two of the most outstanding players at the World Cup in Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, a striker who reinvented himself as a creative midfielder in Qatar. Also, after scoring the winning goal for England, Olivier Giroud equaled Messi’s tally of four goals in Qatar.
They can hit on all fronts and have the quality of knowing that they are capable of taking on any challenge.
Their center back Raphael Varane pointed out that there is no risk of underestimating the Atlas Lions: “We have enough experience not to fall into that trap. We know that Morocco is not here by chance. If it is up to us , experienced footballer, so we are ready for another fight.”