Football fairy tales don’t always have a happy outcome, but they are still beautiful fairy tales. In the final of the World Cup, against Leo Messi’s Argentina, the reigning champions France is predictive; Morocco, the real surprise of the tournament, had to be satisfied with the applause of the world which mostly rooted for him before, and which after Les Bleus’ 2-0 win in the semi-final pays homage to him for his courage, boldness and good game. The difference was certainly the superior technical rate of Les Bleus, but also a pinch of luck by Deschamps, an initial wrong choice by Regragui and the lack of experience of the North African players under the goal. France was above all the direction of Griezmann and the outbursts of Mbappè; Morocco, which also had to recover from an unexpected initial disadvantage given the previous defensive positions, was a real team in a game that was always vertical, fast, precise, but without an offensive end. The champions took advantage of all this.
THE CHRONICLE OF THE MATCH
With Macron in the stands alongside Infantino, France is the big favorite. The 35,000 Moroccan fans in the stands boo it, but respect the ‘Marseillaise’. To tell the sympathy of those not involved, the pre-match headline of the Jerusalem Post: “We are all Moroccans”. Among Les Bleus, Fofana replaces the cold Rabiot, not even on the bench, while Regragui loses central defender Aguerd: Dari replaces him, and perhaps also for this reason the Morocco coach changes from the 4-3-3 formation which so far has allowed him to suffer only goals at 4-5-1. A choice that will not pay off, also because Aguerd’s absence is compounded by the bad conditions of Captain Saiss, who also tries to be there.
Ready to go, the fortress of Morocco soon falls, and opens the game to open-face game scenarios. Inevitable both on defensive inattention, the protagonist El Yamiq who punches the mark on Griezmann: the result is a dangerous ball in the area on which Mbappe’ sees himself rebounded twice, the second time on the opposite post the acrobatic deflection by Teo Hernandez wins, for the 1-0. It’s only in the 5th minute, and the game heats up: a couple of minutes and Ounahi throws a great right foot that Lloris takes off from the low corner in flight, then Ziyech tries to launch into the area, but the shot is off. Saiss plays with a bandage on his thigh and suffers, Giroud takes advantage of it in the 18th minute by stealing the ball from him to launch himself into the net: with his big left Bounou and all of Morocco are pardoned by the post. Regragui runs for cover: the injured captain Saiss comes out, the entry of Amallah gives the team back the usual back four. The offensive thrust is constant, France is forced to fouls on which the Mexican Ramos lets it go; paradoxical that the first yellow card is for Boufal, for a foul in attack, and that a couple of minutes later the referee thanks Dari on the ram to Teo Hernandez.
France took advantage of the counterattack and in the 35th minute they came close to doubling the lead twice: Tchouameni launched Mbappè, the right footed shot in the area was rejected by Bounou, Giroud flew past the post. But El Yamiq’s great bicycle kick in the area reminds him that the game is wide open at the end of the half: Lloris doesn’t get there but the post saves him. Back on the field, Regragui changes again, Attiat-Allah full-back in place of Mazraoui: same form, different drive. The fruits came after 8 minutes, in a handful of seconds the newcomer came close to scoring twice, first svirgolando and then putting in the center for En Nesyr (and Koundè saved early). Ziyech and Hakimi on the right make the French defense spin, Morocco enters the easy area but lacks the finishing touch. France is squeezed in their frontline, they want (or can?) bet only on Mbappè’s speed in open spaces.
Deschamps tries to reverse the inertia in the 20th minute with Thuram inside for Giroud, now completely cut out, and Mbappè moved to centre; the speed of the son of art allows Les Bleuses to make up for it, with a couple of dangerous sorties. Hamdallah, who also took over, devours the opportunity in the half hour, however, on a ball stolen from Tchouameni: he enters the area, but waits too long for the winning shot. And then comes the free-kick: it’s the 34th minute, Mbappè slaloms into the area and shoots, on the deflection he slingshots to the far post for the 2-0 by Kolo Muani, who has just entered for Dembelè. The game ends there, even if Morocco believes it and attacks. But when Kounde’ on the line in the 5th minute of stoppage time also denies the satisfaction of an irrelevant goal, it seems fate. One enters the Olympus of the World Cup only for grandeur. It’s up to Mbappè and Messi to compete for the Cup. Morocco is left with the finals and the applause of the world.