France vs. Morocco Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/14/22)

We’ve officially come to the semifinal that absolutely zero people predicted; a France team that’s been ravaged by injuries, and of course, the feisty Moroccan group who have been underestimated by just about everyone. Hell, I was higher on them than most but I still only had them advancing to the quarterfinals. No matter what the odds might say, however, they keep winning, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re as much of a threat as anyone else to win the whole thing. Now Morocco have to face the defending champs, after they’ve just barely escaped England in a thrilling rivalry match. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this wholly unprecedented and thoroughly fascinating semifinal match.

France vs. Morocco Odds

France are unshockingly pretty decent favorites in this one, with their odds set at -190 to win within regulation. Morocco are seen as veritable long shots at +650, and the draw is +300. The goalscoring line understandably favors the under, as u2.5 is set at -155 in what could be a tense, defensive matchup.

France vs. Morocco Prediction & Pick

The World Cup is a funny event; France are the defending champs, but it doesn’t feel like the defending champions we’re used to in American sports, or even club football. Since the Cup is only once every four years, so much can change, so that 2018 triumph is little more than a memory, and holds little bearing on this tournament. That’s even more true with the amount of injuries France have sustained in this one, as their lineup is nearly unrecognizable from the one that took the trophy back in Russia. There’s been a few major constants though, the most notable of which has been Kylian Mbappé. After announcing himself to the World as a star teenager in the last World Cup, he’s picked up right where he left off last time as he’s raced out to a lead in the tournament’s Golden Boot race.

Morocco, conversely, are not doing something that just happened four years ago; they’re making history every step of the way. They were just the fourth African nation to make a quarterfinal, but the first team with an African manager, and the first from the Arab world to make it that far. And of course, they are now about to become the only African side, so far, to play in a World Cup semifinal. Of course, no squad from their continent has ever won the Cup, but as Morocco have proved all tournament long, just because something’s never been done before doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Under the stellar leadership of Walid Regragui, there’s nothing this team can’t do- even knocking off the defending champions is squarely on the table for this definitively special Morocco squad.

Picking the moneyline is a tough proposition for this match. I do think that France is going to win, but I definitely don’t think they should be as heavily favored as the moneyline would imply; in short, there’s not a lot of value to be found. France is my official pick, and while I’d almost rather capture the value of a double-chance, I’m probably not going to bet on the 90-minute outcome in this one. The goalscoring total I feel much better about; Morocco have one of the most historic defenses in World Cup history- their single goal allowed (an own goal, at that) through five games is a record, and their attack has struggled at times to create chances. This will not be a goal fest, and as I’m thinking of a result of something like France by a 1-0 margin, I’d consider teasing this line down to u2 or even u1.5. That being said, on the given line, I’m all about the under in this one.

Key Matchups

France Attack vs. Morocco Defense

If you’ve been following this tournament, it’s no secret whatsoever that Morocco’s defense is what’s gotten them this far. With their only concession being something of a fluky own goal, no opponent has created a goal against them, and Spain weren’t even able to bury a single shot in their penalty shootout. Obviously, if this trend is able to continue, the Atlas Lions aren’t losing, so that’s where we’ll start our analysis.

We have to address the elephant in the room; the literal centerpiece of the defense, captain Romain Saiss, being carried off against Portugal. He’s reportedly “desperately” trying to get fit for the match, but it’s reasonable to operate under the assumption that Morocco will be without their rock for at least parts of this match. It’s not all bad news though; Morocco will regain West Ham centre-back Nayef Aguerd, who was out against Portugal due to yellow card accrual. He’ll likely start alongside Jawad El Yamiq, who was excellent alongside Saiss in Aguerd’s absence last match. Bayern up-and-comer Noussair Mazraoui will also be returning from yellow card suspension, although Yahia Attiyat Allah put in a great shift in his stead against Portugal, contributing an assist on the lone goal of the match. Lastly but certainly not least, we have PSG superstar Achraf Hakimi at right back, who has been one of the very best players in this World Cup in terms of both his defending and progressive play; he’s making a legit case for the tournament’s golden ball. This is a legitimately outstanding Morocco defense, and with some good injury news, a very deep one too; France will have their work cut out for them in their pursuit of scoring even one goal.

But of course, this French attacking group is in a whole different category compared to the Moroccans’ competition up to this point. We’ve already discussed Mbappé, and frankly it’s hard to say anything about perhaps international football’s biggest star that hasn’t already been said, but he truly has been that excellent. Antoine Griezmann has also snapped right back into his very best form for France, and in the biggest moments too; he’s been solid all tournament but picked up two huge, and absolutely gorgeous assists against England. He seems much more comfortable in a CAM role than the wing position he’s sometimes been forced into for club and country. France’s long-unsung star Olivier Giroud is also finally getting at least a shred of the recognition he deserves, he’s been excellent in filling the shoes of injured Ballon D’Or winner Karim Benzema, as he trails only Mbappé for goals scored in this tournament, including the winner against England. Oh, and he’s now France’s all-time leading goalscorer, having passed the great Thierry Henry for that enormous honor. The only weak link has been winger Ousmane Dembélé, who has failed to get on the scoresheet yet, although he has picked up two assists; he’s just looked generally overwhelmed by top competition, which Morocco certainly is, especially in defense. This is truly a battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, but something has to give- we’ll see what that might be on Wednesday.

The Midfield Battle

While the defense has been excellent for Morocco, let’s not discount the role of their midfield, which finally started seriously catching the attention of the World against Portugal. Fiorentina man Soyfan Amrabat has been at the center of it all, as he’s been the embodiment of end-to-end football; he’s really been just about everywhere for Morocco, and has played every minute in the knockouts. He’s been joined by Ligue Un player Azzedine Ounahi, who was absolutely stellar, dare I say pivotal in the match against Portugal. Lastly, Selim Amallah of the Belgian league has also been a fixture, although he’s excelled somewhat less than his midfield counterparts. As great as they’ve looked at times, this midfield has seriously struggled with gaining and holding possession; they possessed just 23% against Spain, and then 27% against Portugal. It’s been about opportunistic play on the break for this team, but holding up the ball better would go a long way towards getting them into the final.

In tournaments past, the French midfield has been perhaps the greatest strength of a superstar team, but with the injuries to national legends Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, it’s had a different look in this World Cup. The rising star this time out has been Aurélien Tchouaméni, who has really settled into the role nicely, highlighted by an absolutely brilliant strike to open the scoring against England. He’s been joined by Adrien Rabiot, who had a great opener against Australia but has slipped in form a bit; it may be time for him to give way to Tchouaméni’s Real Madrid midfield partner, star youngster Eduardo Camavinga, who’s been used extremely sparingly in this tournament. Griezmann is also part of this group in a technical sense and he has dropped back a good amount, but he’s more of a link to the attacking group than a possession-based player. Speaking of which, France were thoroughly outplayed by England in the middle third on Saturday, so like Morocco’s midfield unit, this is a group in need of a stronger performance to lift their team to football’s greatest stage.

From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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