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‘Formidable opponents’: Giant-slayers Morocco to face France at World Cup

France face World Cup history-makers Morocco in the World Cup semi-final, with Lionel Messi’s Argentina lying in wait after another dazzling performance from the diminutive magician.

The Copa America champions swept aside 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday to give the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner the chance to crown his career in style.

Defending champions France know victory against surprise package Morocco on Wednesday would leave them just one win away from becoming the first team in 60 years to successfully defend the trophy.

Didier Deschamps’ France are heavy favourites to win at the Al Bayt Stadium but face a team that have conceded just once in their extraordinary run to the semi-final. 

France captain Hugo Lloris is desperate to avoid the whiff of complacency for a team who have become used to competing at the sharp end of tournaments.

“When a team is capable of beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal, and finish top of their group, it is because they have lots of quality on the field and undoubtedly off it too, in terms of cohesion and team spirit,” Lloris said.

“They will be formidable opponents, and on top of that there will be a hostile atmosphere in the stadium.”

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Deschamps’ team are closing in on a third World Cup triumph in seven tournaments but will be aware that no team have retained the World Cup since Pele’s Brazil side performed the feat in 1962.

The world champions are unlikely to have it all their own way against a tough Morocco team.

They topped a group containing Croatia and Belgium before beating Spain on penalties and then dumping Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal out of the tournament.

Morocco are the first African side and the first Arab nation to reach the semi-final of a World Cup.

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Fan factor

The game will have added spice given France was Morocco’s colonial power and more than a million Moroccans live in the country.

Their not-so-secret weapon on Wednesday will be the incredible support from fans in the stadium and across the Arab world.

“There is a popular fervour behind them,” said Deschamps. “It will be very noisy and my players have been warned about that. They know what to expect.”

Morocco coach Walid Regragui, who was born near Paris and spent most of his playing career in the French league, believes his team have become the neutral’s favourite.

But he is adamant his side are not just there to make up the numbers.

“If we are happy just to reach the semi-finals and some see that as enough, I don’t agree,” said Regragui.

“If you get to the semi-finals and you are not hungry then there is a problem.”

“The best team in the tournament, Brazil, is already out. We are an ambitious team and we are hungry but I don’t know if that will be enough,” he added.

READ MORE: Morocco’s Regragui breaks new World Cup ground for Africa, Arab coaches

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