France join Argentina in the final: Five takeaways from day 25 of World Cup 2022

Theo Hernandez France Morocco
(Image credit: Getty)

Morocco may have been the people's choice after a series of plucky displays, but France have made it to successive World Cup finals. 

Les Bleus were hardly magnificent in victory, but they had the firepower others didn't when it came to finding a way through Morocco's stubborn backline. The result means Argentina will play France in Sunday's World Cup final. 

Here are the five main takeaways FourFourTwo has learned over the course of another day of World Cup action. 

Morocco prove porous without key men

Morocco

(Image credit: Getty)

Hakim Ziyech may have been the undisputed star of this Morocco team but, throughout Qatar 2022, the performances of two lesser lights, also known to Premier League fans, had been key in the nation's underdog progress. 

Nayef Aguerd and Roman Saiss, the former of West Ham and the latter once a Wolves man, had been the tournament's best central-defensive partnership until this stage. Before the France game, no opponent had breached them - the only goal they conceded, in a 2-1 win over Canada, was an own goal scored by Aguerd. 

So it was crushing to see both limp out of the biggest game of their lives - Aguerd in the warm up and Saiss at half-time, the latter having suffered through the opening period. France had already scored when Saiss departed, but, in truth, the two heroes of this adventure were cruelly denied a chance to test their combined might against the best. 

Both of them, as well as Morocco fans everywhere, will wonder what might have been had they been fit. 

France show their clinical side again

Jawad El Yamiq

(Image credit: Getty)

Despite France progressing with a 2-0 win, few Les Bleus fans would argue their team was much better than Morocco on the night. They'd probably agree they were no better than England in the previous round, either. 

But, as ever, ruthlessness made the difference. It was Olivier Giroud in the quarter-finals and it was Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Munai tonight. They might not have controlled their World Cup games for long periods, or even defended all that well this past month, but France, quite simply, know how to put the ball in the back of the net. 

Morocco, like England last week, toiled admirably but couldn't find a way through in the semi-final. The Atlas Lions' best effort was probably Jawad El Yamiq's audacious overhead kick. Relying on miracles doesn't win you World Cups. Taking the easy chances does - and France are the best at doing just that. 

Deschamps deserves massive credit

France

(Image credit: Getty)

To lose a key man on the eve of a major tournament is every international manager's worst nightmare. To lose four is unthinkable. 

Yet Didier Deschamps has had just that to contend with. Before Qatar, all of Karim Benzema, Lucas Hernandez, N'golo Kante and Paul Pogba were in the France manager's best XI - yet all four pulled out before a ball was kicked. 

Deschamps simply reshuffled his side - albeit with envious strength in depth to draw from - and forged a new team that has now reached a second consecutive final. The likes of Dayot Upamecano, Auerlien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud have performed admirably in place of the more illustrious names usually ahead of them in the pecking order, while the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann appear to have enjoyed playing with new faces. 

Whatever happens on Sunday, Deschamps deserves massive credit for leading such an impressive B-team to a World Cup final. 

Morocco are an inspiration to the underdogs

Morocco players celebrate their goal against Portugal at World Cup 2022.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let’s be honest, nobody saw it coming. Morocco weren’t featured in many of the pre-tournament ‘dark horse’ articles, but the Atlas Lions will leave Qatar as one of the greatest-ever World Cup sensations.

Not only did they make history, becoming the first African or Arab country to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup, but they offered a blueprint of success to would-be surprise packages of the future.

Walid Regragui has only been in the job for three months, but the manager quickly identified what his team’s strengths are and created a system that got the best out of all of them.

A top goalkeeper, well-drilled backline and excellent holding midfielder kept things tight – so tight that no team before France scored against them in open play – while they counter-attacked with commitment, intelligence and intensity rather than hitting and hoping.

This side has no real stars of the global game – Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi are the closest things – but Morocco’s success in Qatar will give hope not only to their fellow African and Arab nations, but to all unfancied sides, that the biggest nations can be given a bloodied nose with a bit of courage and belief. 

Theo Hernandez is a threat – but also a risk

Theo Hernandez France Morocco

(Image credit: Getty)

Both extremes of Theo Hernandez's game, the good and the bad, came to light in the first half.

The left-back sprang into the air to volley home the opener inside five minutes, demonstrating levels of finishing and athleticism that players in his role rarely possess.

But not long after, the AC Milan man clattered into Sofiane Boufal in the box clumsily. It should’ve been a penalty, but somehow the Morocco winger ended up being booked instead.

The fact that Theo’s comfort zone is attacking the opposition box rather than defending his own is a large part of the reason he started the tournament as second-choice behind his brother Lucas, who quickly picked up an injury.

And the sight of Lionel Messi causing havoc down the right wing against Croatia, twisting one of the World Cup’s standout defenders Josko Gvardiol inside and out to set up a goal, might make France fans consider if Theo’s attacking weapons make up for his occasional defensive lapses.

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Mark White
Staff Writer

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo. 

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