Fox Sports Insider
AL KOR, QATAR – At this World Cup, Theo Hernandez took a twist of fate to come on and quickly send France to the final.
Hernandez may have been stuck on the bench for Wednesday’s match against Morocco at the Al Bait Stadium had not his brother Lucas been injured in France’s opener against Australia. Instead, five minutes later he was about to score the crucial first goal of a tense and entertaining semi-final.
Theo Hernandez started scoring
Theo Hernandez’s strike in the fifth minute gave France an early lead in their semi-final against Morocco.
AC Milan don’t hire marginal talent, France head coach Didier Deschamps doesn’t choose them. However, it is worth noting that although Hernandez is a fantastic player, he may be the least technically gifted in the team’s starting line-up. This is not a small thing against him, it shows how much pure talent courses are given in the French team.
Antoine Griezmann’s run found space when defender Jawad El Yamik failed to break away and a low cross set up the unmarked left-back Hernandez at the far post before finding Kylian Mbappe.
Hernandez performed a gymnastic feat that would have made a striker proud, leaning his body to the side and raising his leg to the hairline before firing the ball into the only gap left by Moroccan goalkeeper Bono.
At the other end of the night, with 11 minutes remaining and Morocco pressing, some Mbappé mischief in the box set up Randal Kolo Muani, who had been subbed a minute earlier.
Randall Kolo Muani made it 2-0
France took a two-goal lead in the 80th minute.
A 2-0 scoreline set up a final that pitted the most complete team in international football against its greatest player. Deschamps’ France won in Russia four years ago and look unlikely to be troubled in the knockout stages.
With Lionel Messi vs. Argentina (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App); Les Bleus He will have the chance to become the first champion since Pele’s Brazil in 1962.
However, the margin may have been a little unkind to Morocco, who brought a lot of energy and fun to the event, reaching their first ever semi-final in Africa.
Hernandez scored the fastest goal in a World Cup semi-final since 1958, the first for Walid Regargui’s Morocco to follow in the tournament.
But the idea that accepting it so early will weaken the North African team is false.
France had the chance to become champions again for the first time in six decades.
They soon had a real leg up in the game, despite their shortcomings. Azzedini Onahi forced Hugo Lloris into a fine save with a powerful run down the pitch, and the Tottenham keeper was called into action again to deny El Yamiq’s World Cup wonder with an acrobatic header.
Olivier Giroud hit the outside of the post with a powerful effort and Mbappe was posing his usual threat but France were content – and perhaps should have been grateful – to hold on to their slender advantage at the break.
Morocco had no choice but to run in the second half. What a dream it was to beat Spain on penalties and Portugal – including Cristiano Ronaldo – in the quarter-finals. If it wasn’t for so many unsung half-chances and some stability in the area, this might have gone a different way.
Hakim Ziyech caused trouble with his ingenuity, but neither Yusuf in Nasiri nor Yahya Atiyat-Allah could use it.
France had a momentary scare midway through the second half when Mbappé went down in trouble, then again when the speedy forward was tackled by a defender, which caused a flurry of changes but no damage.
The new shoes clearly agree with him. Blinking runs into the box when more space opened up put the game out of reach. Mbappe’s effort went wide and Kolo Muani scored at the end post, much to the chagrin of Morocco’s vocal supporters.
In the year France have not lost a World Cup knockout game since losing to Germany in the quarter-finals in 2014. Although Messi and company had plenty to say about that Sunday, there were few signs of a potential turnaround here.
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Martin Rogers is a FOX Sports columnist and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX And Sign up for the daily newspaper.
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