Romain Saiss, Achraf Hakimi Dec 14, 2022; Al Khor, Qatar; Morocco defender Romain Saiss (left) and defender Achraf Hakimi (2) embrace after losing a semifinal match against France during the 2022 World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Morocco became the darling of the FIFA World Cup, gaining praise and respect in each round. The dream ended for the first African nation in the World Cup semis as defending champs France beat Morocco 2-0.

France got an early jump on Morocco that put them in a position they weren’t used to being in throughout the tournament. Playing from behind.

In the fifth minute, France moved down the pitch and looked prime to score, but Morocco was set defensively. A hopeful shot was deflected to the foot of a wide-open Theo Hernández, who was inserted into the starting XI after his brother Lucas was injured in France’s first group stage match. The left back rifled his left foot to send the ball past goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and two Moroccan players on the line to score the opening goal for France.

Morocco eventually responded, and at one point, it looked like they would equalize. Among multiple close chances, their closest happened in the 44th minute when a Morocco corner landed at the foot of Jawad El Yamiq, who launched a bicycle kick that hit the post.

Morocco kept fighting, but in the 79th minute, France scored again, which was pretty much the decider. Randal Kolo Muani, who just subbed in the match 44 seconds before, doubled France’s lead with his first touch of the ball.

After that, it was pretty much France holding onto the lead. There was some late drama, but it felt inevitable the result wouldn’t change. France was heading to their fourth final, while Morocco would head to the third place game.

Morocco will be crushed to get so far and lose, but they not only got the chance to shock the world, they earned their chance to shock the world. They were the only team not to allow a goal from their opponent until the semis, and they had an attitude that it didn’t matter who was facing them on the other side of the pitch. They would go in, be fearless, and give their best.

Morocco drew fellow World Cup semifinal team Croatia, then beat #2 ranked Belgium. In the knockout stage, Morocco took 2010 World Cup champ Spain to penalties, leaving them shut out in the shootout. And in the quarterfinal, Morocco eliminated the man who many consider the “GOAT” as Morocco defeated Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to face France.

None of that was a fluke. It was accomplished due to Morocco playing as a cohesive team and having a system that may not merit the most exciting play but worked. They stayed defensively tough the entire tournament, and even in the loss against France, you could argue that Morocco held strong against the defending champs. There’s not much more you could say about the team who had a continent and the Islamic world cheering for them.

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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