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France advanced to the last four of the World Cup with a narrow triumph over England
Morocco will be looking to cause another upset after knocking out Spain and Portugal
Expect few goals as the tournament’s sturdiest defense attempts to shut down France
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This looks set to be a tight game without too much between the sides.
Back under 1.5 goals when France take on Morocco in the second semi-final of World Cup 2022. (+186)
France went into this tournament with plenty of question marks surrounding them. Many were valid given Didier Deschamps’ side were almost relegated to League B of the Nations League in the fall, after which they lost the likes of N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku, and Paul Pogba to injury.
Another doubt was over the togetherness within the camp, but over the last three weeks, France have delivered a firm riposte to the charge that discord was rife in the locker room. A divided team would not have been able to beat a strong England side on Saturday, nor would it have made it as far as the semi-finals.
France were not necessarily the better team last time out. The two teams created a similar level of chances from open play and England were rightly awarded two penalties. On another day, Gareth Southgate’s side could easily have progressed to the final four instead of the defending champions.
Yet it is surely not a coincidence that the fine margins so regularly fall in France’s favor. This is a team that always gives its opponents a chance. Les Bleus are yet to keep a clean sheet at this World Cup, which is unique among the sides that reached the quarter-finals. But time and time again, they find a way to win.
There are similarities to be drawn with Real Madrid, who have such a good record in the Champions League in recent years. Neither Madrid nor France has an overarching philosophy or clearly defined style of play. Both struggle to control games from start to finish. Yet Madrid and France possess plenty of firepower and star quality, and that so often makes the difference.
The adventure continues for Morocco. Having exceeded expectations by finishing top of Group F ahead of Croatia, Belgium, and Canada, the Atlas Lions then eliminated Spain on penalties in the round of 16. Many felt that would be as far as Walid Regragui’s side would get, but a 1-0 victory over Portugal on Saturday sent them through to the last four.
The triumph over Fernando Santos’ men was historic. Morocco have become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. The only Arab country still standing, the Moroccans have the support of the host nation and the wider region for the remainder of the competition.
It is hard to overstate the job that Regragui has done. The former Wydad boss was only handed the reins at the end of August following the dismissal of Vahid Halilhodzic, the man who led Morocco through Africa’s tough qualification competition. Regragui had very little opportunity to mold the team in his image, yet it is clear he made full use of the time he had.
Morocco were worthy winners over Portugal. They once again kept things tight at the back, keeping a fourth clean sheet in Qatar. The Atlas Lions have still conceded just once all tournament - and that was an own goal in a victory over Canada. No team at this World Cup has a better record of keeping opponents out.
Morocco are not merely a defensive team, however. They can be genuinely swashbuckling on the counter-attack, progressing up the pitch with sharp, snappy, and incisive passes. Portugal had more of the ball on Saturday, but that does not mean they were the better team. Morocco’s strategy paid dividends once more.
The best online sportsbooks expect France to emerge triumphant on Wednesday. The reigning world champions certainly deserve to be favorites: not only do they have more quality than Morocco, they also have the experience of this stage of the competition.
However, the Atlas Lions have already overachieved to get this far and there will be little pressure on them at the Al Bayt Stadium. This is a free hit for Regragui's side, who will draw confidence from the fact they have already upset Belgium, Spain, and Croatia over the last fortnight.
We recommend looking for alternatives to betting the moneyline for this one. One attractive option is under 1.5 goals. That goal would have paid out in both of Morocco’s knockout matches to date, as well as one of their group games.
As well as their ability to shut games down and make them tight and low-scoring, consider too that semi-finals are high-stakes affairs that do not often feature many goals.
Indeed, of the last 10 last-four clashes at World Cups, only two have contained two or more. Back under 1.5 within 90 minutes on Wednesday.
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Teams: France vs Morocco
Location: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar
Time: Wednesday, 14 December 2022, 2:00 PM EST
How to Watch: Fox Sports, Telemundo, fuboTV
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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