February 7, 2023

The Athletic

France, who qualified for back-to-back World Cup finals

Call it L’Equipe un exploiting the venu des trefondsa feat from the depths, and when you look at it that way, as a triumph over adversity as well as a valiant adversary, FranceIt advanced to second place in a row world Cup The final look is even more impressive.

the performance? Not much actually. France coach Didier Deschamps admitted his team was “not perfect” at batting Morocco in Wednesday’s semi-finals and that they were “not perfect” when they beat England In the quarter-finals too. Over the course of those two matches, they rarely looked like world champions, but in the end, with a team ravaged by illness and injury, only the result mattered.

France’s 2-0 victory over Morocco means that this strangest of World Cup finals will end with the tournament final the organizers had previously desired. Argentina compared to France Lionel Messi against Kylian Mbappewhich means the greatest player of his generation against his heir apparent, both of which are operated by the Qatari team Paris Saint-Germain.

If the ‘dream final’ was in doubt for a while in the creek on Wednesday night it was because Morocco, the surprise package this World Cup had France sweating for.

For game periods, with Sufyan Amrabat Morocco shone again in midfield, pressing Deschamps’ side more aggressively than England did on Saturday. After conceding the first goal Theo Hernandez Within five minutes, Morocco started attacking, taking risks and holding the players forward, threatening the equalizer until the end Randall Kolo Mwani He came off the bench to score the second goal for France in the 78th minute.

(Photo: Katherine Ivel/Getty Images)

With this, Deschamps and his players can finally start focusing on Sunday’s final. “We could have played better,” said the coach. “But we are in the final and both finalists will play a better team than they have played so far in the tournament. Maybe the team that makes fewer mistakes will win the match.”

Thinking back to France’s last World Cup final four years ago, that 4-2 win over Croatia In Moscow it was a strange game full of mistakes on both sides of the field. So was the semi-final on Wednesday, with both teams playing at a frantic pace and leaving huge openings for the opposition to exploit. If Morocco is left to pay the price, ultimately, for allowing Mbappe so much space in the build-up to the second goal, the same could be said of France’s defence; They cannot afford to give Messi as much time, space and encouragement as they have been given Azzedine OnahiAnd the Hakim Ziyech And the Youssef Al-Nusairi.

For France, there were mitigating circumstances. It is documented that they played this tournament without Presnel Kimpembe. Ngolo KanteAnd Paul Pogba and Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema due to injury. Since then they have been lost Lucas Hernandez to an anterior cruciate ligament tear, and on the day of the semi-finals, Dayot Upamecano And the Adrian Rabiot For what Deschamps called “a disease going on in Doha.” “We are all trying to be careful not to spread it,” the coach said, adding that he expects both players to be fit for Sunday.

Where do we go next the athlete

France’s line-up has changed a lot from what it was in Russia four years ago, but by the time the semi-finalists dropped their cards, they weren’t easily recognizable. Only five from the starting line-up against Morocco (Hugo LlorisAnd the Raphael VaraneAnd the Antoine GriezmannAnd the Olivier Giroud and Mbappe) in the 2018 final. Jules Conde (24), Ibrahima Konate (23), Theo Hernandez (25), Joseph Fofana (23) and Aureline Choameni (22) It represents a new wave, as it is Marcus Thuram (25) and Randall Kolo Mwani (24) who came off the bench to kill the Moroccan resistance.

Tchoameni started all six of France’s matches in Qatar. And Conde and Konate, who performed well in a temporary defense against Morocco, now reach four and three caps, respectively. Griezmann is looking better and better in the roaming midfield role. Mbappe, without being at his best against Morocco, provided moments of real quality.

The concern was that Mbappe was too focused on going forward and Theo Hernandez provided insufficient defensive support. Ashraf Hakimi He was in good contact with Zekh, and eventually Deschamps decided an intervention was needed, and replaced Giroud with Thuram, who came up the left wing with orders to track Hakimi when he moved forward and, where possible, to clear him. That worked well, as did the decision to replace Ousmane Dembele with Kolo Muani, who scored within 44 seconds of coming on.

When you consider how many players are already missing, Strength in Depth is especially trustworthy. But how good is this France team? Good enough to win Australia 4-1, Denmark 2-1, Poland 3-1, England 2-1 and Morocco 2-0, but their impressive brilliance during the knockout stages in Russia four years ago was unprecedented. Perhaps Mbappe and his teammates will save themselves for Argentina, whom they beat 4-3 in Kazan in 2018.

Mbappe, France, Argentina

Mbappe in the win over Argentina in 2018 (Photo: Katherine Iffel/Getty Images)

But how well did you play to win the World Cup? The accepted wisdom is that you have to get into the shape of your life, but international football isn’t always like that. Sometimes it takes a team with the best players to simply hold their nerve, work together, and avoid doing anything stupid. A reasonable squad with players who are talented and have the right mentality will always have a chance. Under Deschamps, France certainly makes sense.

France reached the final this year after only going top for a short time, against Australia. Against England and Morocco, they had a little bit of luck but had enough quality, knowledge and ruthlessness to beat an opponent without the same winning tradition.

They are expected to raise their game to defeat Argentina in the final, but Deschamps will gladly accept any kind of performance as long as they get their victory – especially in the conditions of this tournament, when they had to draw. Deep reserves in more ways than one.

Moroccan national team coach Walid Regragui, who was born and raised in the suburbs south of Paris, declared in the post-match press conference that “For the past 20 years you can say that France is the number one football country in the world. They have the best players, the best coaches and they are the best team in the world.” “.

SpainAnd the Germany or Italia He might have something to say about the past two decades if we’re only talking about international soccer, but France have become the first team to reach back-to-back men’s World Cup finals since Brazil in 1994, 1998 and 2002. They hope to become only the third team (after Italy in in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962) to win back-to-back titles. All this – plus runner-up in European Championship 2016 finalists and Nations League winners in 2021 – unimaginable when they failed to qualify for the World Cups in 1990 and 1994.

As for Deschamps, a France international in those dark days, he led France to World Cup glory as captain in 1998 and as coach in 2018. A third winner’s medal would have done him nice, but when it was handed to him on Wednesday . On the evening, he said little other than to note that “the team is more important than me.”

Increasingly, he finds himself meaning the team and not the team he originally had in mind when France qualified for this World Cup. Hardly a day goes by without France suffering some setback or that, but from the depths of their squad and their depleted energy reserves, they’ve found enough to get the job done. If they want to beat Messi and Argentina, they may have to dig deeper.

(Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images)