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 World Cup final since Brazil in 1998 – you have to go back a further 50 years to the last time a European nation achieved such a feat when Italy did so in 1938.
Injuries to crucial players did not help Deschamps’ preparations. Still, France’s ruthlessness in the future has inspired another deep run into the tournament after seeing off England in the quarter-finals despite arguably being second-best.
France head 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.
Morocco will be fearless after seeing off Spain and Portugal with two clean sheets en route to becoming Africa’s first World Cup semi-finalists.
Morocco has extended their World Cup unbeaten run to six matches, a record for an African nation.