France vs Morocco, World Cup 2022 semi-final: team news, kick-off time and TV channel
Morocco fans with tickets for the World Cup semi-final are struggling to get to Doha after an airline was mysteriously forced by Qatar authorities to cancel extra flights.
Royal Air Maroc (RAM) had previously said it would lay on 30 additional flights for the France match – but the Reuters news agency reports only 14 flights ended up being scheduled. That potentially leaves more than a thousand ticket holders stranded at home ahead of kick off.
In an email to customers, the airline blamed Qatari authorities for unspecified restrictions. “Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways,” RAM said.
Qatari government officials and Fifa are yet to respond to requests from Telegraph Sport for comment. At least seven flights were cancelled on Wednesday, leaving fans who had already booked match tickets or hotel rooms unable to travel.
With the whole of the Middle East and Africa throwing their support behind Morocco, numbers are still swelling in Doha ahead of kick-off, however.
France will face Morocco in their World Cup semi-final, after the 2018 champions beat England 2-1 and the Atlas Lions made history by becoming the first African side to reach this stage in the tournament after defeating Portugal 1-0.
France are the heavy favourites heading into the clash, but Morocco will be hoping for another giant killing, after topping their group, then laying waste to early contenders Spain in the Round of 16.
The winner will face Argentina on Sunday, December 18 in the World Cup final.
When is France vs Morocco
Theirs is the second of the semi-finals, taking place on Wednesday December 14, at Al Bayt Stadium. The first semi-final, between Argentina and Croatia, took place on December 13, at the Lusail Stadium.
What time is kick-off?
Perfectly timed for the UK audience, the match starts at 7pm.
What TV channel is it on?
The game will be shown live on BBC One, while it will also be available to stream via BBC iPlayer.
How have France fared so far?
Despite suffering several injuries, Les Bleus have looked strong in their bid to defend their title. Kylian Mbappe has terrorised defences, scoring five goals so far in the tournament, and he leads the race for the Golden Boot.
Their one slip was a 1-0 defeat to Tunisia in their final group game – but Didier Deschamps deployed a B team for that match as Les Bleus had already qualified.
They were convincing in their 3-1 last-16 win over Poland and battled well to beat England 2-1 in their quarter-final.
What are France saying?
Head coach Deschamps said after the England match: “We are getting to the semi-finals. We are closer to the final and this was an important achievement tonight and we can believe, but we have an important game on Wednesday.
“In the past the world champions didn’t always do well in the next World Cup and we’ve managed to do that.”
France Hugo Lloris had warned it could be “tough to concentrate” amid the raucous atmosphere so “we have to be focused and be very precise”.
French-speaking Morocco has a large population of expats in their opponent’s country and there is expected to be a febrile atmosphere in the likes of Paris and Marseille.
In Doha, however, the French support will be outnumbered by 20 to one, and Morocco’s charismatic manager, Walid Regragui, who was born in France himself, says it gives his side an edge. “For me, we have the best fans in the world, maybe with Argentina and Brazil,” Regragui said.
“Now the world starts to know what is a Moroccan fan. He is a crazy guy, loves his country and his club. Tomorrow you have more than 20,000 people minimum. He can come to support us and I am very happy because the World Cup can give a picture of fans of Morocco.”
How have Morocco got on so far?
The African side finished top of Group F after beating Belgium and Canada and earning a goalless draw with Croatia. The last-16 clash saw Morocco celebrate a historic World Cup win over Spain. They beat Luis Enrique’s side 3-1 on penalties after neither side managed to score in normal and extra time. They then had a hard-fought 1-0 win over Portugal to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals.
Morocco have benefitted from their ties having the atmosphere of a home game due to the groundswell of support not just from travelling fans but the endorsement of the Arab world, and over 20,000 fans are expected at Al Bayt.
What are Morocco saying?
Ahead of the semi-final, Moroccan head coach Walid Regragui was emphatic that Morocco would not rest on their laurels after their history-making victory over Portugal.
“We aren’t satisfied with the semi-final and being the first African team to do that. We want to go further.
“We are one of the four best teams in the world now and we want to reach the final. The best team, Brazil, is already knocked out.
“We are hungry. I don’t know if it will be enough but we want Africa to be on top of the world. I know we are not favourites but we are confident.
“You might think that’s crazy, but a bit of craziness is good.”
What is France and Morocco’s results history?
The two sides have played each other 11 times before, with Morocco winning on one occasion and France winning seven times. Three matches resulted in a draw. They have never faced each other at a major tournament and their last meeting was a 2-2 draw in an international friendly in 2007.
What is France’s World Cup record?
France are the defending champions having prevailed in Russia. They also won on their own turf in 1998. They were runners-up in Germany in 2006, losing on penalties to Italy after Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi. Only two countries – Italy and Brazil – have recorded back-to-back World Cup triumphs.
What is Morocco’s World Cup record?
The African side have qualified for the World Cup on six occasions but had never made it past the Round of 16 until this tournament.
Latest team news
Moroccan captain Romain Saiss says he will “give everything” to be fit against France on Wednesday, having been stretchered off 57 minutes into the win over Portugal.
Morocco were already missing his central defensive partner, Nayef Aguerd, through an injury sustained in the last-16 penalty-shootout win against Spain. Saiss, who now plays for Turkey’s Besiktas, said “I will try, I don’t know” when asked if he will be fit.
“We will see, we will do some tests to see what kind of injury I have,” he added. “But I will try my best to be on the pitch. I hope it will be OK.”
France have no suspended players for the semi-final and did not appear to pick up any injuries in their match against England, where they named the same starting XI for a second match in a row.
France to win: 8/15
Morocco to win: 6/1