France's build-up to the World Cup was dominated by talk of the so-called "holders' curse" and Didier Deschamps' uncertain future.

A few weeks later Les Bleus are on the verge of becoming the first reigning champions to reach the final since Brazil in 1998 – you have to go back another 50 years to the last time a European nation achieved such a feat when Italy did so in 1938.

Deschamps' preparations were not helped by injuries to important players, but France's ruthlessness going forward has inspired another deep run into the tournament after seeing off England in the quarter-finals despite arguably being second best.

France go into Wednesday's semi-final at Al Bayt Stadium against Morocco as overwhelming favourites.

It will be the defending champions' seventh World Cup semi-final. After losing their first three, each one they have contested since - in 1998, 2006 and 2018 - has ended in French celebrations.

Given the previous three holders before France crashed out in the group stage (Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018), Deschamps is pleased to have avoided humiliation – but they still have ambitions to satisfy.

"We've got to the semis, closer to the final, and this was an important achievement, so we can believe in ourselves, but we have a big game on Wednesday," he said.

"We can be satisfied with what we've done so far, even though we want to go further. In the past, the world champions haven't always done well in World Cups and we've overcome that challenge, but we have an important game on Wednesday."

While France have the weight of big expectations on their shoulders, Morocco will be fearless after seeing off both Spain and Portugal en route to becoming Africa's first World Cup semi-finalists.

Deschamps is wary of the threat posed by the Atlas Lions.

"It's fantastic what [coach Walid Regragui] has achieved," he added. "Morocco have played and beaten some of the best teams in the world, and that's down to the players, the coach, the staff.

"It's a historic achievement. It's not a surprise now because we've seen them put in a number of top performances. They haven't stolen the victories; they've deserved them."

Regragui has been lauded for Morocco's run, partly because his leadership qualities are underpinned by an articulate and wise demeanour.

Under his guidance, Morocco have extended their World Cup unbeaten run to six matches, a record for an African nation.

Throughout the tournament, Regragui has spoken of his desire to unite the Arab world; now he is relishing Morocco's chance to represent Africa.

"We advanced with our qualities. We lost a lot of players before the World Cup. We lost Amine [Harit], [Imran] Louza, [Adam] Masina… but we held on," he said.

"We created a state of mind. You have to fight for these people, to make them happy.

"Today, Africa has returned to centre stage. Each time, [African teams] were asked: 'when are you going to pass the [quarter-final] stage?' It's done.

"It's not just me. And it's not over."


France – Antoine Griezmann

With Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud hogging most of the headlines for France, Griezmann has made a big impact and Morocco must find a way of keeping him quiet.


The Atletico Madrid man has performed a vital playmaking role for Les Bleus and set up both goals in their quarter-final win over England, taking his goal-involvement tally to eight in his past eight World Cup starts.

Morocco – Sofyan Amrabat

Once again, Morocco are unlikely to have most of the ball, so the combativeness of players like Azzedine Ounahi and Amrabat in midfield could be key, particularly with Griezmann so influential in his new midfield position.

Ounahi probably trumps Amrabat in the elegance stakes, but the latter's eight successful tackles is the fourth-highest among midfielders at the World Cup, while his tournament-leading 41 recoveries demonstrates the Fiorentina star's fine understanding of how to read the game. He's a big asset.



It won't come as a huge shock to learn Les Bleus are the clear favourites with Stats Perform's AI model.

Deschamps' men have a 64.3 per cent chance of winning, the supercomputer reckons.

Morocco, of course, already defied the odds to get this far, though their 13 per cent likelihood of victory is reduction from 18.8 per cent ahead of the Portugal game.

The draw is rated at 22.7 per cent, and the Atlas Lions would presumably take that in a heartbeat.

France coach Didier Deschamps saluted Antoine Griezmann for playing a starring role in Les Bleus' run to the World Cup semi-finals after coming through "challenging times".

Deschamps' side take on Morocco in the second semi on Wednesday, with France aiming to become the first European nation to reach successive World Cup finals since Italy in 1938.

While Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud have grabbed the headlines, Griezmann has been similarly key to the holders' progress despite being used in a new position, essentially in midfield.

The Atletico Madrid player has created more chances (17) and recorded more expected assists (2.9) than anyone else at the tournament, while his two assists against England in the quarter-finals took him to three for the campaign – no one has more.


Further to that, his 28 involvements in shot-ending open-play sequences is second only to Mbappe (40) in the France squad, highlighting his influence in their build-up play.

After several difficult years with Barcelona and back at Atletico, Griezmann's form has surprised some, but not Deschamps.

"Yes, he's had a great tournament, but we'll need him to be just as good [on Wednesday]," Deschamps told reporters in Tuesday's pre-match press conference.

"He's the type of player who can really change a team because he's so hard-working and so technically gifted. He's playing slightly different role in this World Cup, but it suits him well.

"He likes defending just as much as attacking and being a playmaker. Of course, his main responsibility isn't ball winning; his left foot is so wonderful, he creates chances for others.

"He's someone who always thinks of the team above everything else. He's extremely hard-working, probably more so than most players.

"He's been an elite player for 10 years now. Of course, he's gone through challenging times like any player, but he's mentally very strong. Like all world-class players, he's at his best in the most important games."


Dayot Upamecano is another France player impressing in Qatar after having to overcome certain struggles.

Although a regular at Bundesliga level from the age of 18, Upamecano did not win his first senior cap until just before he turned 22.

Then, last year he found himself back with the Under-21s instead of in Deschamps' squad for Euro 2020 as he paid the price for some unconvincing early appearances with Les Bleus.

However, he has started all but one of France's World Cup games, with Deschamps pleased to see he has moved past some psychological barriers that were previously stunting his progress.

"Dayot did have an issue with his mental strength, which I think prevented him from being the top player we knew he could become," the coach added.

"He's managed to overcome those challenges, he feels more relaxed, more confident. I do think that's what helped him reach his best level and show the qualities he has.

"He's very fit, good in tackling, good at passing. Sometimes he tries to overdo things a bit with his passing, is too ambitious, but he listens to advice, he's open-minded, relaxed, happy.

"Some players can be introverted in nature like him, and so maybe they need more time to develop and flourish.

"But I'm quite convinced when a player has potential that it will end up flourishing even if sometimes I must recognise there are other players in the squad who can also be very strong and have their role to play.

"So yes, he's been through challenging times, but he's now relaxed, more confident and showing he's a top player."

England captain Harry Kane will come back stronger from his penalty heartbreak against France, says Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris.

The Three Lions suffered a 2-1 loss in Saturday's keenly fought quarter-final tie, sending Gareth Southgate's side home from Qatar 2022 as Didier Deschamps' men remained on course for a title defence.

Having converted an earlier spot-kick to level both the match and Wayne Rooney's all-time England goal record, Kane subsequently skied another penalty over the crossbar late on, missing the chance to make it 2-2.

Lloris, who has played with Kane at Tottenham for a decade now, says he has briefly spoken with his club colleague, and believes he will pick himself up in impressive fashion when the dust has settled.

"I don't need to go too much further," he said. "We texted after the game. It was not easy to find the words straight after, in the changing room. I think he needed some rest.

"It's a difficult time for the English national team and for Harry, but I think he can be proud of what he's done for the team during this World Cup.

"In football history, many top players missed important penalties in their career – like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe.

"I've no doubt he will keep his chin up, and he will have Tottenham and the national team to shine [for]."

Kane won the Golden Boot at Russia 2018 four years ago after leading England to the semi-finals, and helped fire the Three Lions to the Euro 2020 final on home soil last year too.

He now has 53 goals in 80 caps for his country, leaving him one strike away from overhauling Rooney outright.

Morocco's celebrations said it all. Having done what many deemed the impossible against Spain, the Atlas Lions went one better by beating Portugal 1-0 in 90 minutes.

They only qualified for the World Cup semi-finals, so to some their jubilation might have even looked over the top.

But the significance of the win was not lost on Morocco's players.

Family members were on the pitch at full-time: goalkeeper Yassine Bounou brought his young son out to have a kickabout on the grass while the toddler adorably ran around wearing his dad's comically large gloves; Sofiane Boufal shared a heart-warming embrace with his mum, who subsequently joined him out on the turf; captain Romain Saiss held his son aloft; coach Walid Regragui was engulfed by a group of relatives in the stands.

These genuinely were comparable to celebrations that would be seen after winning the World Cup, and why not? After all, this is the closest any African team has ever come to lifting the famous trophy, with Wednesday's clash against France the first World Cup semi-final to include a CAF country.

While few would have picked them out as semi-finalists before the tournament, this run has been defined by tirelessness, spirit, and quality, with some perhaps surprised by how much of the latter they possess.

But who have been their standout performers to this point?

Bono's beautiful day

Any team that goes deep into a World Cup needs a dependable goalkeeper; when you look at the first-choice numbers ones in the semi-finals – Emiliano Martinez, Dominik Livakovic, Hugo Lloris and Yassine Bounou – the evidence is all there to see.

Bounou, or 'Bono' as he wears on his shirt, was named player of the match against Portugal. While he only made three saves, two of those were crucial stops near the end, and he was also just a generally assuring presence, swatting away high deliveries effectively.

The Sevilla goalkeeper, who was born in Canada, made his 50th appearance for Morocco on Saturday and became the first keeper to record three clean sheets at a single World Cup for an African team.

But he was also vital to Morocco's progression to the last eight, saving two spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out that saw them past Spain.

If the Atlas Lions get past France, he'll have surely played a key role again.

Hakimi living up to his reputation

If there's one player in the Morocco squad who needs no introduction...

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Achraf Hakimi has been exceptional for Regragui's men. Some might have expected more from him in attack, but defensively he's really shown his class and work ethic.


No defender left in the tournament has contested (62) or won (35) more duels than Hakimi, while he also tops the charts for tackles (19) and tackles won (13).

Morocco haven't been scored against by an opposition player at the 2022 World Cup, with their only goal conceded coming via an own goal against Canada. They've kept four clean sheets, with the last two sides to record five in a single edition going on to lift the trophy (Spain 2010, Italy 2006).

Hakimi's certainly played his part.

Amrabat and Ounahi: the engine room

Sofyan Amrabat was by no means an unknown quantity coming into the tournament given he's had a bright start to the season with Fiorentina.

Azzedine Ounahi will have been much less familiar to many, but he'll leave Qatar with his reputation massively enhanced.

The 22-year-old Angers midfielder is a very satisfying player to watch. Elegant on the ball and a competitor without it, Ounahi has really stood out as a midfield all-rounder.

No other central midfielder can better his four carries leading to a key pass, while he has completed seven of 10 dribble attempts.


This elegance is matched by his guile, with just five midfielders winning more duels than Ounahi (26). With him alongside Amrabat, Morocco possess a legitimately excellent central pairing.

Amrabat can match Ounahi's combativeness, with his eight tackles won the fourth-highest among midfielders, but he also has a fine understanding of how to read the game, as demonstrated by his tournament-leading 41 recoveries.


The X-factor

There's rarely a dull moment when Boufal or Hakim Ziyech have the ball.

Of course, Ziyech came into the tournament with something of a point to prove after falling out with the previous coach.

He undoubtedly brings the capability to do something special out of nothing, though he also works extremely hard, with his 61 duels contested the joint-best among all midfielders in the tournament.


While that may not be what Ziyech is best known for, Hakimi will undoubtedly be happy for the help against Kylian Mbappe next time out.

Boufal on the other flank has been similarly tireless. Classed as a forward by Opta, only two other forwards have been in more duels (63) than the mercurial winger.

Additionally, his 22 take-on attempts has been bettered by only six players in the whole tournament, and his 54 per cent take-on success is the third best among players to attempt at least 12.

There's never been any doubt about Boufal's natural ability; he has just tended to frustrate. In Qatar, his talent on the ball has been key in helping Morocco turn defence into attack.


En-Nesyri out to silence the doubters

It's been a difficult 18 months or so for Youssef En-Nesyri, who is a team-mate of Bounou's at club level with Sevilla.

Injuries have disrupted his progress, and he's struggled to recapture his best form after a promising first full season at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Nevertheless, he's got two goals now at this World Cup – that's two more than he has in LaLiga this term – and the second of those highlighted the striker's biggest strength: his aerial ability.

While that goal against Portugal went down as a Diogo Costa error, En-Nesyri's leap was remarkable. Counting it as a goalkeeping mistake arguably does the forward a disservice.


Regardless, he capitalised to become Morocco's all-time leading scorer at the World Cup, with his two in Qatar adding to the one he netted against Spain in 2018.

Whatever happens on Wednesday, Morocco will have two more matches, with a final or a third-place game to come. One more goal for En-Nesyri and he becomes just the fourth African player to score three or more at one tournament after Roger Milla in 1990 (four), Papa Bouba Diop in 2002 (three) and Asamoah Gyan in 2010 (three).

Judging by Morocco's giant-slaying narrative so far, however, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if one of their two remaining games is for the title.

Morocco can "work miracles" under Walid Regragui with their "exemplary state of mind," says former midfielder and assistant coach Mustapha Hadji.

The Atlas Lions, who had only progressed beyond the group stage once in five previous World Cup appearances, are the first African nation to reach the semi-finals following an incredible run in Qatar.

Having only succeeded Vahid Halilhodzic in August, Regragui has overseen victories over Belgium, Spain and Portugal to set up a last-four clash with reigning champions France.

Hadji appeared for Morocco at two World Cups (1994 and 1998), while he served as his nation's assistant coach from 2014 until earlier this year.

The 51-year-old is thrilled with what he has seen, telling L'Equipe: "Here in Morocco, it's crazy, what's happening for the national team is extraordinary.

"It's only been two or three months since Walid Regragui arrived in the national team. There was an upheaval with Vahid. 

"The new coach was able to find the words and the way to bring out the best players and make a team with a lion's state of mind.

"The team plays with heart and an exemplary state of mind. With a coach like that, you can only flourish and work miracles."

Harry Kane's penalty miss in England's World Cup defeat to France may have been influenced by the long VAR check, according to Jurgen Klinsmann, who feels there is "more to come" from the Three Lions.

England suffered an agonising quarter-final defeat to the reigning champions on Saturday, as Kane blazed an 84th-minute spot-kick over the crossbar after scoring an earlier penalty.

Referee Wilton Sampaio – who was criticised by some England players after the game – was initially unmoved by Theo Hernandez's push on Mason Mount, only awarding England's second penalty after a long VAR review.

Speaking in his role as part of FIFA's Technical Study Group on Monday, former Tottenham forward Klinsmann blamed that wait for Kane's costly error.

"From the time that he whistles for the penalty until the time he gets a chance to actually execute the penalty, there's far, far too much time passing by, and it works into your brain," Klinsmann said.

"I'm obviously a big Harry Kane fan and if Harry had the chance to just put the ball down and shoot, no big deal.

"But the whole VAR situation, double-checking whether it was a penalty… time goes by and by and by.

"Then you obviously start thinking and you get to a point where you don't execute the penalty the way you would have done it right after the whistle."

Kane's miss ensured England suffered a record seventh World Cup quarter-final exit, but Klinsmann believes they remain on the right path despite several near misses under Gareth Southgate.

"I think, overall, it was a very positive presentation from the English side in this entire tournament," the 1990 World Cup winner said.

"This game, France v England, came just too early. It should have been a semi-final or the final.

"But one team had to go home and unfortunately it was England, from an English perspective. But I think overall they played a very good tournament.

"It's still a team in growth. I think this team is still able to get better over the next few years. They are, age-wise, not on the limit now by any means.

"They have a lot of talent coming through, getting better, getting more experienced. They have now had three very positive tournaments with the one in Russia [in 2018], obviously the Euros where they went to the final.

"Now I think this was a very positive tournament, even if it ended in the quarter-finals. There's more to come from this England side, in my opinion."

England were not the only team to suffer penalty heartache in Qatar, with pre-tournament favourites Brazil bowing out at the same stage courtesy of a shoot-out defeat against Croatia.

Brazil planned for star forward Neymar to take their fifth and final penalty, which never arrived after Rodrygo and Marquinhos failed to convert, and Klinsmann believes that was a mistake.

Asked for his thoughts on where the Selecao went wrong, Klinsmann said: "Put your best shooter first. Set the tone with your best penalty-taker."

England manager Gareth Southgate is "conflicted" as he weighs up his future in the role following the side's World Cup quarter-final exit to France.

Southgate made it clear after Saturday's 2-1 loss to Les Bleus that he will not rush into a decision on his future, while the Football Association have left that call in his hands.

The England boss, who led the side to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 final, has been in charge since 2016 and is contracted until December 2024.

The 52-year-old had made it known he wanted to enjoy the 2022 World Cup, having a "difficult" period after England's penalty shoot-out loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, which erupted after losing 4-0 to Hungary in Wolverhampton during June's UEFA Nations League fixtures.

"I've found large parts of the last 18 months difficult," Southgate said. "For everything that I've loved about the last few weeks, I still have… how things have been for 18 months.

"What's been said and what's been written. The night at Wolves. There's lots of things in my head that’s really conflicted at the moment.

"What I want to make sure, if it's the right thing to stay, is that I've definitely got the energy to do that. I don’t want to be four or five months down the line thinking: 'I've made the wrong call'. It's too important for everybody to get that wrong."

Southgate has transformed England since their disappointing Euro 2016 last-16 exit to Iceland, becoming a genuine title contender with a new wave of exciting talent.

The ex-England defender had no timeframe on when he would make a decision on his future, stating he was eager to overcome the emotion of the defeat before making a call.

"When I’ve been through the past few tournaments, my emotions have been difficult to really think through properly in those following few weeks," he said. "It took so much energy out of you and you have so much going through your mind.

"I want to make the right decision either way because it has to be the right one to go again, or the right one not to go again, and I don't think now is the time to make a decision like that. Neither are the next few days, really."

Southgate added that he was not sure when he was ever going to get over England's latest World Cup exit, but spoke with a sense of pride about their performance.

"I don't think I have got over the last one [Euro 2020] but this feels a little bit different because when we reflect on what we’ve done, I’m not sure what more we could have done or given," he said.

"I think we've given a really good performance against a top team. It was a significant psychological step for those players.

"I have been involved in nights where we have played top teams and been on the back foot for the majority of the game and been dominated. We wanted to be bold in the tournament and I think we went toe-to-toe with them.

"We have said we want to be competitive all the way through with England and we are, I believe, in that top table … the last three tournaments, we have restored credibility.

"The rest of the world look at us as a good side, but we are here to win, and we haven't won."

Rio Ferdinand believes England manager Gareth Southgate "came up short" with his substitutions in the 2-1 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France.

Harry Kane missed a late penalty as England tumbled out of the tournament in Qatar, with goals from Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud sending France through to a semi-final against Morocco on Wednesday.

With England chasing Saturday's game late on, Southgate decided to bring on Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling for Jordan Henderson and Bukayo Saka with just over 10 minutes to play.

He then took off Phil Foden for Marcus Rashford in the 85th minute, while Jack Grealish came on deep into stoppage time as England desperately tried to get back in the contest.

Those attempts ultimately ended up fruitless as England suffered fresh tournament heartbreak, having lost the Euro 2020 final on penalties to Italy last year.

Former defender Ferdinand, who won 81 caps for England between 1997 and 2011, feels Southgate's reluctance to make alterations cost England a semi-final spot.

"Our [England's] substitutions is where I think Gareth Southgate let us down," Ferdinand said on his YouTube show Rio Ferdinand Presents FIVE.

"I think he's been pitch-perfect, touch-perfect in almost every decision he's made up to this point, but you get into a game like yesterday where this is really where it matters now, and I think Gareth Southgate came up short in the tactical element in terms of substitutions.

"Gareth, in the moment, wasn't proactive with his substitutions, he was reactive.

"It hit 1-1 and we're sitting there going, 'Take the bull by the horns, make a substitution, get us on the front foot'. You've got Rashford, you've got Grealish who can go on, get us on the front foot and change this game.

"You're sitting there going, 'It's too late, man'. You've got to do this when we've got the chance of still winning this game and taking the game from them."

After another tough tournament exit, there are many questions over whether Southgate will continue in his role, with the manager himself unsure for now.

But Ferdinand expects Southgate will stay on, saying: "I think, if I am Gareth Southgate, I cannot leave this story.

"This story hasn't had an ending yet that works for me, if I'm Gareth Southgate."

Hugo Lloris insists France will need 'all our strength, all our energy' when they face Morocco in the World Cup semi-finals.

Les Bleus became the first reigning champions to reach the last four since Brazil in 1998 after edging out England in a tight quarter-final on Saturday, Olivier Giroud's late header settling the tie.

It was a special day for Lloris, who became France's record cap holder after surpassing Lilian Thuram (142) with his 143rd international appearance.

To mark the occasion, the captain was presented with a commemorative shirt by Didier Deschamps as attention turns to the tournament's surprise package in Morocco, who became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals after stunning Portugal.

"[I am] still proud, still honoured to wear the shirt of Les Bleus, even after 143 appearances," Lloris said in a video posted on France's official Twitter account.

"I really want to thank the team, the staff, the entire management for making this game so special. Beating England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, it will remain a special memory for me, but also for my family who were present.

"Now, we'll prepare well for this semi-final against Morocco. We'll need all our strength, all our energy knowing that there's something really special we can achieve.

"I think we're all aware of this, but we'll continue to be calm and collected. But it has to come from [the stomach]."

Antoine Griezmann was also presented with a personalised shirt, his pinpoint cross for Giroud's winner against England was his record-breaking 28th assist for Les Bleus.

The Atletico Madrid forward, who believes he will soon be surpassed by Kylian Mbappe (18), urged his team-mates not to lose sight on retaining the world title for the first time since Brazil in 1962.

"Kylian only needs 10 assists to reach 28, so I'm going to enjoy this moment!" he laughed. "There are still two games left, we can do it. Let's concentrate, be focused and enjoy."

Didier Deschamps will decide whether he remains France head coach after Qatar 2022, according to French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet.

Deschamps took over as France boss in 2012 and has since led Les Bleus to a World Cup title as well as the Euro 2016 final, having previously won 103 caps during his playing career.

His France team beat England on Saturday to reach the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar, keeping alive their hopes of becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy.

Deschamps' contract is due to expire after the tournament, with rumours persisting that former Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane could be in line to take over the role.

However, Le Graet is hopeful Deschamps will choose to remain at the helm.

"We are lucky to have a good coach [Deschamps], good technical staff," Le Graet told L'Equipe. "The players need to be reassured, we really have a team of high quality managers around them.

"Didier Deschamps has not lost his touch. He exudes happiness, the players too, it shows.

"The question of extending is totally up to him. Finding a coach of this quality is not easy. It is he who decides, I hope he will say yes.

"But it still deserves, especially on his part, a reflection."

Hugo Lloris believes Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane "must have been feeling the pressure" after the striker's missed penalty helped France into the World Cup semi-finals.

Kane had already scored a penalty to equalise for England after Aurelien Tchouameni's long-range opener, but Olivier Giroud put France back ahead with just 12 minutes to play.

Kane then received a golden chance to level again from the spot after Theo Hernandez inexplicably bundled over Mason Mount in the France area.

However, the England captain blazed his penalty well over before France saw out the remaining minutes to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain their World Cup crown.

Lloris feels his club team-mate felt the weight of the moment, causing him to balloon his spot-kick over the crossbar.

"The first one, we know each other so well that I said to myself he'll change, but he stayed with his usual," Lloris told France's Twitter account. "The second one, I went the right way.

"Certainly, he must have been feeling the pressure so he lifted it a bit, he forced it a bit. It was an important moment in the game."

France won Saturday's game despite England having double the amount of shots as the reigning world champions, while registering 2.41 xG (expected goals) to France's 1.01.

Laurent Blanc, who coached Les Bleus between 2010 and 2012 having won 97 caps as a player, cited France's superior experience deep into tournaments as the reason for the quarter-final victory.

"You always have to respect your opponent," Blanc told reporters. "I found a very good French team, but I honestly found a very good English team. It's been a while since I've seen an England team so good.

"We won, I think, because we have perhaps a little more experience and then the fate was more favorable to the French than to the English."

France's path to their second straight World Cup final is now only blocked by Morocco, whose fairytale run to the final four has seen them become the first African nation to get this far in the tournament's history.

Blanc says Morocco must be treated as a very capable opponent and suggested complacency cannot creep in.

"I think it will be a great game, you know the history of the two countries, they are very close," Blanc explained.

"We must respect the opponents who are surprises and Morocco, I think, in the semi-finals of the World Cup, is a surprise.

"But when you get to the semi-final of the World Cup, yes you were considered a surprise at the beginning but when you get there, you can no longer be a surprise. So it means that they have very good players, a very good coach.

"So here we are, may the best team win and we will watch it with great interest."

Milan have played a part in France's latest bid for World Cup glory after "revitalising" striker Olivier Giroud, according to the Serie A club's president Paolo Scaroni.

France remain on course to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy after beating England 2-1 on Saturday to set up a semi-final showdown with Morocco.

Giroud scored the reigning champions' winner in the quarter-final against England, with that his fourth goal of Qatar 2022 – only team-mate Kylian Mbappe (five) has scored more.

The 36-year-old has also been in good form for club side Milan this campaign, having been directly involved in a team-high 14 goals (nine goals and five assists) in 19 matches.

He has scored 23 goals in 57 games in all competitions since the start of last season when joining from Chelsea, which is also more than any Milan player over that period.

As Giroud continues to show on the biggest stage that age is just a number, Scaroni says France should be grateful to Milan.

"He's doing very, very well. I think France's qualification [to the semi-finals] is due to him a lot," Rossoneri chief Scaroni told Sky Sport Italia.

"We at Milan have 'revitalised' him a bit. I don't know if I can say it, but I have the impression with us he has found new motivation that he has transferred to the national team. 

"Let's say that we too have played a small role in the success achieved so far by France".


Giroud scored twice in France's opening group match against Australia and then overtook Thierry Henry as his country's record scorer with his strike in the last-16 win over Poland.

The ex-Arsenal man could set another record in France's semi-final against Morocco as he is one goal short of becoming the oldest player to score five at a single World Cup.

Giroud is not the only Milan player in France's World Cup squad, with defender Theo Hernandez – who has played in four games – also included.

Milan have played a part in France's latest bid for World Cup glory after "revitalising" striker Olivier Giroud, according to the Serie A club's president Paolo Scaroni.

France remain on course to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy after beating England 2-1 on Saturday to set up a semi-final showdown with Morocco.

Giroud scored the reigning champions' winner in the quarter-final against England, with that his fourth goal of Qatar 2022 – only team-mate Kylian Mbappe (five) has scored more.

The 36-year-old has also been in good form for club side Milan this campaign, having been directly involved in a team-high 14 goals (nine goals and five assists) in 19 matches.

He has scored 23 goals in 57 games in all competitions since the start of last season when joining from Chelsea, which is also more than any Milan player over that period.

As Giroud continues to show on the biggest stage that age is just a number, Scaroni says France should be grateful to Milan.

"He's doing very, very well. I think France's qualification [to the semi-finals] is due to him a lot," Rossoneri chief Scaroni told Sky Sport Italia.

"We at Milan have 'revitalised' him a bit. I don't know if I can say it, but I have the impression with us he has found new motivation that he has transferred to the national team. 

"Let's say that we too have played a small role in the success achieved so far by France".


Giroud scored twice in France's opening group match against Australia and then overtook Thierry Henry as his country's record scorer with his strike in the last-16 win over Poland.

The ex-Arsenal man could set another record in France's semi-final against Morocco as he is one goal short of becoming the oldest player to score five at a single World Cup.

Giroud is not the only Milan player in France's World Cup squad, with defender Theo Hernandez – who has played in four games – also included.

Gareth Southgate is not planning to rush into a decision about his England future before Christmas, insisting he has "few regrets" about the Three Lions' World Cup campaign.

Southgate's team suffered a heartbreaking quarter-final exit against world champions France on Saturday, with Harry Kane missing a late penalty after scoring an earlier spot-kick.

The England boss said he would take time to ensure he made "the correct decision" on his own future in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat, with his contract set to expire after Euro 2024.

He then hinted an immediate decision was unlikely in an interview with England's media channels on Sunday, adding he was struggling to see where the Three Lions went wrong.

There will be standard debriefing sessions with the Football Association in the coming days, and then Southgate is planning some family time over the Christmas holiday.

"We've not been in this position before when we're coming up to Christmas, but we will reflect and debrief on the games but also the whole camp," Southgate said.

"At the moment, it's hard to think of things we could've done better. There might be bits and pieces, things which you'll take forward to further tournaments, so that's a process that we'll go through.

"Then I'll have Christmas with my family and we'll go from there."

England earned praise from some quarters for their front-foot performances in Qatar, and the Three Lions' tally of 13 goals at the competition represents their highest total at either the World Cup or European Championship.

Despite seeing England's agonising wait for major tournament glory in the men's game continue, Southgate insisted he did not regret many aspects of the team's campaign.

"It's a really strange feeling because the end of a tournament is so stark. Everyone is packing everything up, after going through years of preparation and then months of tighter preparation," Southgate said.

"There's also the feeling that we've come so close and the performance, we were happy with. We felt we could've gone on and done more but yet, I really have few regrets about the whole thing, so emotionally it's a rollercoaster."

Asked about the mood of his players, Southgate added: "They're flat. They know they've played well.

"You know when you don't hit the levels that you feel you should, and they know that they have throughout this tournament.

"If I think back to Colombia [in the last 16 at the World Cup] four years ago, the tension in the team and in all of us at getting over the line, it affects performance.

"I think we saw in the two knockout games this time, that's what that experience brings. They have more belief, they have more confidence, and you can't fast-track that.

"They've got to live through that and we've now got a group of very young players with that big-game experience already, and the core of a group who can be together for a long time."

Jack Grealish tipped England to "make history" at future tournaments after their World Cup exit against France, as Marcus Rashford joined him in pledging the Three Lions would respond.

England suffered their seventh World Cup quarter-final elimination – a tournament record – on Saturday, as goals from Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud maintained France's bid to retain the trophy.

Harry Kane scored one penalty and missed another as England experienced a familiar sinking feeling at Al Bayt Stadium, but Grealish believes Gareth Southgate's men will atone in the future.

The Manchester City playmaker was sorry it did not work out this time, having been convinced England were on course for trophy glory.

"Absolutely devastated to go out, words can't describe it as I really thought this was our year," Grealish wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

"I'm so proud to be part of this team and it's been a privilege to be with this group of players and staff for the past four weeks.

"We all have an unbelievable bond and we look forward to the future because we want to make history for all of you at home.

"Thank you to every England fan for your support during the past four weeks."

Rashford, who alongside Bukayo Saka was England's joint-highest scorer in Qatar with three goals, struck a similar tone to Grealish.

"The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions, each and every one of our team gave everything we had to be ready for what was thrown at us," Rashford said in a Tweet.

"We got close, but not close enough. I'll make a promise that we will come again! Thank you for the unconditional support."

Manager Southgate believes the identity of England's quarter-final opponents makes it difficult to say whether his team's campaign should be considered a success.

"Before any tournament, people are always asking what round you need to get to for it to be a success," Southgate said in a video on England's media channels.

"I've always said that's hard to define, because you can play a France and have the type of game we've had, and have a different reaction to getting to a final or a semi-final, as we've experienced.

"It's a difficult time for everybody in our country, and I think the players have represented them in the right way, we've played in the right way. I hope everybody's enjoyed the journey."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.