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By Andrew Quinn

The first World Cup semi-final to ever involved an African team is nearly upon us, with Morocco facing its former colonizer France.

Morocco has exceeded all expectations this tournament, clinching their place in the semi-final with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Portugal. That was only the fourth time that an African team had reached the quarter-final of the tournament, after Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana.

Before their quarter-final victory, Morocco beat Spain on penalties after a 0-0 draw, which confirmed their best ever World Cup performance. In the group stage, Morocco drew with Croatia, before beating Belgium and Canada to advance to the knockout stages.

It could also be a historic game for France, as they aim to become only the fifth side to play in back-to-back World Cup finals. If they win the tournament, they would become the third team to clinch back-to-back titles. Italy won the tournament in 1934 and 1938, while Brazil did the same in 1958 and 1962.

They ground out a 2-1 win over England in the last match, with Olivier Giroud and Aurélien Tchouameni scoring the goals. They saw off Poland relatively easily in the Round of 16 after losing to Tunisia in their final group match – although they did field a much-changed team. They had already beaten Australia and Denmark to reach the group stages.

The big concern for the North African side is the fitness of their defenders. West Ham centre-back Nayef Aguerd missed the Portugal game with a thigh injury and captain Romain Saiss, who joined Besiktas from Wolves in the summer, was forced off in the second half. Bayern Munich full-back Noussair Mazraoui also missed the quarter-final clash, but could be back in contention. Forward Walid Cheddira is suspended after he was sent off against Portugal.

For France, Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano and Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot are injury doubts. The pair only completed light training on Tuesday.


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