Best bets for the Morocco-France World Cup match
Wednesday, 2 p.m. ET
This World Cup continues to fly by, and on Wednesday at the Al Bayt stadium, World Cup holder France battles this tournament's surprise package Morocco for a place in Sunday’s Final. My tournament future pick Argentina awaits the winner.
The Moroccans under coach Walid Regragui have been the sensation of the tournament, claiming victories over three European powerhouses in Belgium and Spain, and then reaching the semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Portugal. Youssef En-Nesyri for the Atlas Lions condemned Ronaldo’s Portugal to what seemed an unlikely defeat. Despite those heroics, they continue to be the heavy underdogs with the bookies at 3/1 to qualify—an incredible achievement for the pre-tournament 300/1 outsiders.
The Moroccans have been so defensively solid in this tournament that, unbelievably, they’ve yet to concede a goal from another team. The only time they have conceded was an own goal from Nayef Aguerd against Canada. The Atlas Lions will be desperate to continue this dream and be the first African nation to reach the World Cup final. Despite their heroics so far, the pressure of this game is beyond anything these players have dealt with before. And although they will be popular with bettors at +600, as we saw in the first semi-final with Croatia losing 3-0 to Argentina, it might be a match too far for the Africans.
Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus have Kylian Mbappé, who needs a big performance to upstage Lionel Messi in the race to be the top goal scorer and player of the tournament. He will be a popular choice at both +125 to score at any time and +300 to score the first goal at the Al Bayt.
France has already been defeated by an African nation at this World Cup—a 1-0 defeat to Tunisia in the group stage, but that was a second-string French side. I can’t see that happening again, but I also couldn’t bet them at the current lines.
These two nations have met five times, but interestingly never in a tournament until now. France has won three with two games finishing in a draw. None of these players have any experience from those fixtures as these teams have not met since 2007
Deschamps has a full squad to choose from except for Lucas Hernandez whose tournament finished in the first game with an ACL injury. Regragui is not as fortunate and has some real headaches here. First, striker Walid Cheddira is suspended after clocking two yellow cards. Couple that Romain Saiss being stretchered off against Portugal with a hamstring injury. The Moroccans will be desperate for injury concern Noussair Mazraoui to start the biggest game in their nation’s history.
You have to respect the Moroccan team who have done superbly well, far better than anyone expected. France, however, represents a huge test as reigning World Champions, and with Giroud and Mbappé finding the net, it will be difficult to keep them at bay. In their last two games, France scored three against Poland and then found the net twice against England. I believe that Les Bleus, who have won their last three World Cup semis, will reach another on Sunday in a mouth-watering clash with Argentina.
My pick here though is in the most cards market and for Morocco to pick up most cards, which is available at a very nice -150. The referee here is Mexican Cesar Ramos who has taken charge of three matches so far in Qatar. They have resulted in two, two, and three yellow cards, but the pressure in this game has gone up several notches. Ramos is normally happy to dish out cards and in his last 32 games, he has dished out 147 yellows and no less than 19 reds.
I believe the pressure of being in this situation could likely lead to this Moroccan team totally losing their heads and committing plenty of fouls to keep Mbappé and company at bay. France has been here and coped in this situation before, and they are much more likely to be the more measured and disciplined of the two sides. Whatever happens, Morocco has had an incredible World Cup. But I make them a strong favorite in this market. With a place in a World Cup final on the line, this will be a step too far, and I expect them to lose their cool in the desert heat!
Pick: Morocco Most Cards at -150