FIFA World Cup: France Digs In As It Prepares For A Storm

France and Morocco collide this Wednesday for their match in the World Cup semifinals in Qatar. After seeing how Moroccan fans destroyed France, Belgium, Spain and other countries during their celebrations, France isn’t taking any chances this time around.

French national soccer team
French national soccer team
The French national soccer team celebrates as it advances through the World Cup. France meets Morocco today to determine who advances to the final game against Argentina. (Image: Getty Images)

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is preparing for the worst. He announced that the country is mobilizing 10,000 police and gendarmes, half in Paris alone. They will mostly congregate around the Champs-Elysees, the major thoroughfare for vehicle traffic, protests and invasions dating back hundreds of years.

Darmanin stated that the Champs Elysees will be open for traffic, but numerous access points will be closed, as well as metro and suburban train (RER) stations. Morocco has been the Cinderella story of the 2022 World Cup and, win or lose, things could get ugly.

Morocco Ready For Upset

The reinforcement of the police forces comes after the incidents that occurred on Saturday after the qualifications of Morocco and France for the semifinal. Police arrested at least 170 people in France, a hundred of them in Paris.

France Draw Morocco
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  Courtesy of DraftKings  

Violence also broke out in Brussels after the match between Belgium and Morocco in the first round. In addition, a draw against Spain and Morocco in the Round of 16 led to public disturbances in Spain a week ago.

Morocco fans have good reason to be happy. This is a first for their team, arriving in the semifinals as the first African nation to ever make it this far.

The team is playing above expectations overall. However, a lot of the success has to do with Yassine Bounou, the Moroccan national team goalkeeper better known as Bono. He has become one of the great heroes of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Thanks to him, his team has only conceded one goal in the entire tournament. That was an own goal against Canada, and his role in the penalty shootout against Spain in the Round of 16 was key for Morocco to come within a single match to play the final of the tournament.

France, in an effort to defend their title from 2018, haven’t had much trouble advancing through each round. They took a hit against Tunisia, but that was a wakeup call that served to keep the team motivated until now.

France Not At 100%

Some soccer fans and sports bettors initially thought France would have an easy game today, but that’s not going to be the case. Morocco is proving to be an extremely formidable opponent.

France is also running into some difficulties before the game. Two of its starters, Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot, are ill and sat out of practice on Tuesday.

Neither has been able to weather the air-conditioned accommodations in Qatar, according to several media reports. On the other hand, Morocco is not dealing with any serious injuries or illnesses.

Argentina Takes Down Croatia

In yet another controversial World Cup match, Argentina eliminated Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday. Immediately afterward, Croatia’s fans, team members and coaches began complaining about how the referees handled the match. Notably, they argued that Lionel Messi received a free pass on a “suspicious” penalty, as Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić put it, that tilted the game in Argentina’s favor.

Messi, who received his fourth Man of the Match award of the World Cup, took that as an opportunity to score the lead-off goal for his team. However, Julián Álvarez, who first met and took a selfie with Messi when he was 10 years old, wasn’t going to let him take the spotlight alone. He answered five minutes later with a goal of his own.

The bottom line is that Argentina played better the entire match. Dalić even admitted it after accepting the defeat. Many soccer analysts and announcers bemoaned the penalty call, but it’s doubtful that, if removed, Croatia would have been any closer to winning.

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