World Cup 2022 LIVE: France vs Morocco team news and line-ups as Adrien Rabiot a major doubt for semi-final
Kylian Mbappe and France prepare for semi-final against Morocco
France are looking to overcome tournament surprises Morocco in tonight’s World Cup semi-final in Qatar – with a place in the final against Lionel Messi’s Argentina lying in wait.
Didier Deschamps’ side knocked out England in the quarter-finals on Saturday evening and are firm favourites against a Morocco side who have stunned Spain on penalties and Portugal 1-0 in the knockout phase so far, to become the first team from Africa to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.
The winner of tonight’s match at the Al Bayt Stadium will face Argentina after the South American champions comfortably beat Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday night, with Lionel Messi scoring from the penalty spot and Julian Alvarez netting twice.
“Well, what I can say is that I am enjoying this a lot,” 35-year-old Messi said with a smile after the match. “I am feeling really good. This is what we’ve been doing in every match. The previous match was a big sacrifice and we went into extra time. That wasn’t easy. Today we were tired but we pulled our strengths to earn this victory.”
Follow updates about the build-up to the World Cup semi-final below:
France vs Morocco predicted line-ups
France XI: Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, T. Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud
Morocco XI: Bono; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal
Michael Jones14 December 2022 17:13
France vs Morocco early team news
Our Assistant Sports Editor Lawrence Ostlere is at the Al Bayt Stadium for tonight’s semi-final and has the latest on team news ahead of the official line-ups being announced:
“Reports suggest there will be a couple of changes by Didier Deschamps this evening: centre-back Dayot Upamecano is set to be replaced by Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate, and Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana is reportedly coming into midfield in place of Adrien Rabiot.
“There were reports of illness in the French camp over the past 48 hours so that may explain those changes, although Upamecano had a chaotic game against England so he might equally have been replaced on performance.”
Michael Jones14 December 2022 17:09
France vs Morocco: What is the early team news?
Defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot are both doubtful against Morocco after missing collective training on Tuesday. Centre back Upamecano and Rabiot, who suffer from a cold, are on light training indoors, the French federation said. Upamecano had already missed Monday’s training session.
Theo Hernandez is expected to start at left-back again, in the absence of brother Lucas, while Jules Kounde continues to be given the nod at right-back ahead of Benjamin Pavard. Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe will be France’s main men in attack once more.
There are injury headaches for Morocco coach Walid Regragui. Captain Romain Saiss had to be stretched off in the win against Portugal due to a hamstring injury and, despite insisting he will do everything possible to be fit, his availability is in serious doubt.
West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd missed the quarter-final win after sustaining an adductor injury against Spain but is pushing to start – and will partner Yahia Attiyat Allah or Jawad El Yamiq.
Back-up striker Walid Cheddira is suspended after his red card on Saturday, yet Hakim Ziyech should be fine to start.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 17:06
France vs Morocco referee: Who is World Cup 2022 official Cesar Ramos?
Mexican referee Cesar Ramos is in charge of Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.
Ramos has already officiated a game involving Morocco at this tournament, namely their 2-0 Group F win against Belgium, which put them on the cusp of qualification for the knockout-stages. The 38-year-old handed out two bookings in that match – one to each side.
Ramos also oversaw Portugal’s last-16 thrashing of Switzerland and Denmark’s group-stage draw with Tunisia. He has issued seven yellow cards across his three fixtures as a referee in Qatar, for an average of 2.3 a game.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 17:00
The different thinking that has defined Morocco’s World Cup fairytale
It is the sort of counter-intuition that Walid Regragui has already become famous for, and could yet make him a historic figure in football. While almost everyone has been asking the Moroccan manager what his plan for Kylian Mbappe is, the former defender’s main concern is another area of the pitch.
Ahead of the World Cup semi-final against France, he has been working with Azzedine Ounahi on what is the most complicated role in the Morocco team, because the Angers midfielder constantly targets three different channels at once. That is very hard to defend against, and represents one of their main attacking outlets. It also forms a defensive role in itself because it can sufficiently confuse opposition sides to disrupt their coherence.
The idea is that Ounahi’s movement should give that French midfield behind Antoine Griezmann a lot to think about, all while Morocco’s own backline will be fully clear about their jobs.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:50
How Argentina’s other 10 helped their No 10 into the World Cup final
Ten other people took the field in Argentina shirts, nine the Albiceleste, one a green goalkeeping kit. Ten other people charged with not ruining the final chapter of one of the great footballing lives. Ten other people demoted to the ranks of the supporting cast in the biggest game of their lives.
Now 10 other people will start the World Cup final. Each can seem an afterthought, a footnote amid a global fixation. Win and they make be captured in the background of a picture of Lionel Messi celebrating. Lose and they have the potential to be scapegoats.
That Messi’s 16-year quest to win the World Cup reaches the end game owes something to the 10 other people. To Emi Martinez, for his penalty saves against the Netherlands. To Julian Alvarez who exerted a decisive, destructive impact with a double to defeat the obdurate Croatians. To Enzo Fernandez, the other breakout star of their tournament, whose ball from deep released Alvarez to win the penalty for Messi’s opener. It was nevertheless Messi who converted it, producing a spot kick that even Dominik Livakovic could not save.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:40
Fifpro ‘sickened’ by reports of footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani sentenced to death in Iran
The global footballers’ union Fifpro has condemned authorities in Iran after reports that professional player Amir Nasr-Azadani is facing execution over his support for women’s rights.
There have been widespread anti-government protests in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September after being detained for allegedly failing to follow the country’s Islamic dress code.
The city of Isfahan’s judiciary chief, Abdullah Jafari, claimed the footballer took part in an “armed riot” in which three security agents were killed on 16 September, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:30
Why isn’t Didier Deschamps seen as a coaching genius?
Didier Deschamps was discussing the secret of his success. “There is no secret,” he said, providing the kind of answer to explain why someone who, in a few days’ time, could rank as the joint most successful manager in the history of the World Cup is rarely seen as any kind of coaching genius.
An understated figure has assessed a formidable CV while remaining relatively unheralded. Only two men have manager World Cup-winning sides, captained World Cup-winning teams, European Championship-winning and Champions League-winning teams: Franz Beckenbauer and Deschamps. The Frenchman was one of the first to win the European Cup with two clubs as a player; as a coach, he has taken Monaco to the final, an achievement that has stood the test of time, and France to the Euro 2016 final. He has won the Nations League, which may or may not acquire more meaning in time. Now he could join Vittorio Pozzo, Italy’s coach in 1934 and 1938, as the only two-time World Cup-winning manager.
Is Deschamps an all-time great or a man who was in the right place at the right time? Both, perhaps. One of his closest allies, his captain for a decade, Hugo Lloris offered some insight. “He has of course tremendous experience as a player and a coach at international level,” the goalkeeper said. “He is calm and collected and transmits that to the players. He is an inspiration to the players. We have a great relationship between players and coach and it is not a coincidence he has been a coach for such a long time.”
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:20
Lionel Messi takes flight to deliver a piece of World Cup history
Two hours before kick-off, fans milled up and down Lusail Boulevard in a hubbub of heart-pumping, stomach-gripping excitement. It is a wide street full of palm trees and bright shops and generic restaurants, a themepark of a place, and this so-called ‘city of the future’ felt like a weird location for some football history. But here they waited, outside McDonald’s and Nando’s and Sainsbury’s, wondering what the night had in store.
This was where Argentina’s destiny would be decided; or rather Lionel Messi’s, for that was who they’d come to see. It was the only way to explain why, beyond Argentina’s core of travelling supporters, thousands of local fans were here wearing Argentina shirts and draped in Argentinian flags. Inside the giant illuminated stadium, a group of young Arabic men took their seats wearing traditional Keffiyeh headdress coloured in the famous blue and white stripes. Thousands of people had come not really to see a World Cup semi-final, nor even to see a football match, as such. They’d come to see a moment.
Messi has his own gravitational pull, one which extends from the streets of Rosario to the bland boulevards of Lusail and far beyond. At one minute to 10pm in Doha, a posse of local volunteers rolled up the giant centre-piece covering the middle portion of the pitch and lugged it up on to their shoulders. As they prepared to march away, suddenly their heads began to spin to the left, one after another like dominos. There was Messi, a few feet across the grass, walking to his mark for the start of the World Cup semi-final.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:10
France’s key player
England did a decent job of keeping Kylian Mbappe quiet on Saturday night but he remains the tournament’s top scorer to date with five goals from as many games.
Combining power, speed and clinical finishing, Mbappe is one of the best players on the planet.
Michael Jones14 December 2022 16:00