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Morocco has experienced a World Cup fairytale like no other.
The Atlas Lions are already the most successful African team in World Cup history – becoming the first ever nation to reach the final four of the tournament.
To reach the semifinal stage, Morocco has beaten European heavyweights Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
Now the Atlas Lions face the best Europe has to offer – world champion France.
After Morocco defeated Portugal, head coach Walid Regragui compared his team to “Rocky.”
“We have made our people and our continent so happy and proud. When you watch ‘Rocky,’ you want to support Rocky Balboa and I think we are the ‘Rocky’ of this World Cup,” said Regragui. “I think now the world is with Morocco.”
Morocco has certainly punched above its weight at Qatar 2022, in part thanks to the team’s “12th man” in the stands.
Thousands of Moroccans live in Doha and thousands more have made the short trip across the Middle East to support their nation, creating a unceasing din at every match.
After the win against Portugal, Morocco’s national airline Royal Air Maroc (RAM) said it was offering nearly 30 flights to Doha ahead of the game against France, state-run news agency MAP reported Monday.
Add to those fans, the support of Africans and Arabs from across the globe and the goodwill of a planet looking for the World Cup’s own Rocky Balboa to throw two more knockout punches in this tournament and there is a growing sense that France will not be playing in the Al Bayt Stadium in Doha but rather in the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca.
The Atlas Lions are also being powered by perhaps the most unlikely of sources; their moms.
After both Morocco’s wins against Spain and Portugal, players like Achraf Hakimi and Sofiane Boufal have been pictured kissing or dancing with their mothers.
Their presence followed Regragui’s decision to invite players’ families to stay with the team in Doha. Regragui’s own mom has been present throughout the tournament, a first for Fatima.
“During his whole career as a player and as a coach, I never traveled to watch him,” she told Moroccan broadcaster Arriyadia.
“I’ve been living in France for more than 50 years now and this is the first competition that I left Paris for.”
If fans want to see tears of joy instead of sadness after the game, then Morocco will have to do something it has never done before and beat France.
Despite the close ties between the nations, Morocco and France have only played five times, with Morocco losing four times and drawing once.
France has been at its menacing best, dispelling all the doubts that hung over the 2018 World Cup champion.
Despite missing at least five key players, the French have emerged as strong contenders to retain their title after grinding out a win against England in the quarterfinals.
Kylian Mbappé has once again been the star of the show and the top scorer of the tournament has underlined his position as the heir to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.
But against England, France showed that it has plenty of other threats aside from the Paris Saint-Germain forward.
Antoine Griezmann has reinvented himself as a midfielder and was instrumental in the win against England, crossing for another unlikely hero, Giroud, to head home the winner.
Like Griezmann, Giroud has had a renaissance this World Cup. After failing to score a single goal in 2018 and with Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema then returning to the team, it looked at one point that Giroud might never play for France again.
Since then, he has scored four goals at the World Cup – only one behind Mbappé – and has become France’s all-time record goalscorer.
And the rest of France’s players will need to be at their best as Mbappé lines up against not only the world’s best right back, but also his closest friend, Hakimi.
The pair play together for PSG and have become inseparable over the last year, making Hakimi the perfect candidate to stop his mercurial friend.
But no love will be lost when the pair play on Wednesday, something that Mbappé said long before the tournament.
In January, when the PSG team was in Doha, Mbappé made the prediction that he would play his friend.
“France, Tunisia I hope we will win and after, we will play against Morocco and I have to destroy my friend [Hakimi],” he said in a video filmed by BeIN Sports. “That will break my heart a little bit but it’s football. It’s what it is, I have to kill him.”
Hakimi responded by saying: “I have to kick him.”
Mbappé and company will have to be at their ruthless best if they are to get past this resolute Moroccan side and reach the final.
France vs. Morocco: 2pm ET
US: Fox Sports
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
source FIFA World Cup 2022 Live Stream – AEsport.tv
Manchester United beat Fulham 3-1 at Old Trafford in the Emirate FA Cup quarter final. It was Fulham who were the better team for large spells as Aleksandar Mitrović opening the scoring in the 50th minute of the match. A Willian handball gave a penalty for United which Bruno Fernandes scored – Willian, Mitrović and Marco Silva were sent off. Marcel Saboteur then scored his first goal for United before Fernandes scored a second.
Fulham started well at Old Trafford with Aleksandar Mitrović showing great strength down the right in the second minute, whipping in a good ball that Scott McTominay had to be alert to knock behind. Harry Maguire then headed clear the resulting set-piece. David De Gea made a save in the third minute as Issa Diop was found 15-yards out on an angle, looping a good header towards De Gea, who had the help the ball over the crossbar. Fulham were lively.
In the fourth minute of the match Mitrović had a penalty appeal waved away after he thought he was fouled by Luke Shaw in the box. United seemed to be sloppy from the start with Maguire adding to it with bad passing from the back. Andreas Pereira then drove forward in the eighth minute, found Mitrović who then set up Willian on the edge of the box, who should have found more but hit his effort far and wide of the target. United needed to be so much better.
In the tenth minute, Bruno Fernandes was down needing treatment after seemingly being elbowed just above his waist. He was fine to continue though. Marcus Rashford launched an attack in the 13th minute, finding Wout Weghorst on the edge of the box for the Dutchman’s finish was not good enough and was straight at Bernd Leno. Mitrović seemed to be lively in the early stages of the match, seeking a goal against United in the Emirates FA Cup.
Fulham had a good chance in the 14th minute with Harrison Reed nicking the ball off Lisandro Martinez then charging into the box. He had three in the box but his final ball was not good enough and the ball was cleared out for a corner. The corner found its way to Tim Ream on the left flank and he delivered a good ball across the face of the goal but there were no takers for Fulham. Andreas Pereira was booked in the 18th minute for a foul on Rashford.
Maguire was booked three minutes later, which would be a suspension for the semi final of the competition, should United get there where the winner of this match will face Brighton and Hove Albion at Wembley. United were close in the 24th minute as Rashford cut onto his right foot, curled the ball into where Weghorst and Marcel Sabitzer were but neither of them could reach it in the end. Fulham wanted another penalty in the 26th minute after Mitrović went down.
It was not given though as there was nothing in it – other than a dive for Mitrović. Fulham had a chance in the 31st minute but Mitrović was unable to find the back of the net. United had a chance at the other end a minute later with Rashford the source of imagination for United but on his final ball, Leno was able to get to block it which ricocheted of Rashford and out for a goal kick. United then started to find some flow but needed a lot more than they had brought to far.
Martinez defended well in the 40th minute as Mitrović was sent up the channel, having an eye for the box. He tried to beat the Argentinian defender with a change of pace but Martinez stayed strong and came away with the ball. Sabitzer had a chance on goal in the 41st minute, taking on a strike from 22-yards but Leno parried it away. Jadon Sancho started something a minute later, with Sabitzer also involved but Rashford did not get to it. It was 0-0 at half time.
There were no substitutions for either team during the break. Fulham started on top again in the second half with João Palhinha and Reed keeping the chance alive, Willian then back heeled the ball to Antonee Robinson who shot at goal but De Gea tipped it over the crossbar. De Gea made another save a minute later was Willian struck from the edge of the box. Fulham opened the scoring in the 50th minute through Mitrović, who buried the ball provided by Issa Diop.
In the 54th minute, United went direct to Weghorst who held it for Rashford, then finding Fernandes. The Portuguese midfielder took his strike from the edge of the box but it was wide of the target. Ten Hag made a substitution in the 59th minute with Antony replacing McTominay. Willian started rolling back the years in the 64th minute, showing his class and ability. He was unable to inspire Fulham to double their lead though. United still needed to get something back.
De Gea performed another great save in the 66th after Mitrović rose highest to head towards goal. Fernandes had some involvement in something in the 68th minute, sending it in to Sancho, who struck it and it deflected off Rashford. In the 70th minute, Willian seemed to handle the ball, being honest about it. VAR got involved and the referee looked at the screen. He sent Willian off and gave United a penalty – it was a harsh sending off for the Brazilian.
Mitrović got nasty, pushed the referee and pushed his face into his face and was sent off for that. Marco Silva was also sent off for his reaction from the double red card, which turned into a treble. Fernandes took the penalty, scoring his ninth goal of the season for United. Two minutes later, Sabitzer scored his first goal for United after Shaw played the ball into him as he was running in the box. VAR looked at the goal and awarded it. United were 1-0 down to 2-1 up.
That was a dramatic ten minutes. Willian was perhaps treated badly for that sending off but what Mitrović did was out of order and he deserves that. Silva also deserved to be sent off for his reaction to what happened. Some will say United got their way with the referees again but it was purely on Fulham what happened. United just gained from it. That is what happens in football. The Fernandes penalty followed by the Saboteur goal was brilliant for United.
United seemed to cool the game down after that, trying to keep possession – dominating the game, which was a first to be fair. It was a terrible game for United before the penalty. Antony came close in the 88th minute – it tested Leno and Diop but he was not able to score. Fred replaced Rashford in the 83rd minute of the match, giving United more in the midfield with them 2-1 up at this stage of the match. United just needed to keep the ball and keep Fulham a bay.
In the 89th minute, Luis Boa Norte – Fulham’s assistant manager, made a triple substitution with Cédric Spares, Manot Solomon and Daniel James replacing Kenny Tete, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Harrison Reed. In the 90th minute, Tom Cairney replaced Andreas Pereira. Seven minutes were added at the end of the second half. United found a third goal, through Fernandes – his tenth of the season, assisted by Fred in the sixth minute of added time.
It was United that would face Brighton and Hove Albion in the Emirates FA Cup semi final at Wembley in April with Manchester City facing Sheffield United in the other semi final. United’s match will probably be on Sunday 23 April as they are playing in the UEFA Europa League the Thursday prior to the match. Ten Hag was happy, United were happy and the supporters were happy. Another trip to Wembley for United – another chance for another trophy this season.
David De Gea: Made some great saves to deny Fulham – one of which kept them in the game. Conceded to Mitrović but later in the second half, that threat was gone. It was a comfortable match for De Gea. ★★★★★★★★
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: Did not seem to be at his best until Antony was on the pitch. His final third play before that was dire. Their ability with each other is good to see. One of the better aspects of his game. ★★★★★★
Harry Maguire: Not the best performances – one of the worst. Hauled down Mitrović and was booked for it – therefore misses the semi final. Kept his place as Raphael Varane was ill and regressed massively. ★★★★★
Lisandro Martinez: The Argentinian really imposed himself against Fulham, although Harrison Reed did cause him to misjudge him. That said, he was great at the back for United and health with Aleksandar Mitrović well. ★★★★★★★★
Luke Shaw: Did not really get going to help United on the attack much. Did get his seventh assist of the season though playing the ball into Marcel Sabitzer for him to score his first United goal, overlapping Jadon Sancho. ★★★★★★★
Scott McTominay: He was disciplined positionally when he did not have the ball – not that he was bad with it. He got a chance on goal just before the break. Replaced by Antony in the 58th minute of the match – before the madness. ★★★★★
Marcel Sabitzer: Scored his first goal for United. Took time to adjust with Scott McTominay. Had a good shot in the first half and played in a cross. His goal was a brilliant finish – first Austrian to score for United. ★★★★★★★★
Jadon Sancho: Seemed off the pace in the first half. Seemed slow on and off the ball at times. Did not get much dynamism in the match but did win the penalty for United with the ball touching Willian’s hand. ★★★★★★
Bruno Fernandes: Careless with the ball at times. He changed his performance when United won the penalty levelling from the spot. He got his second of the game in added time, giving him ten goals and 10 assists this season. ★★★★★★★
Marcus Rashford: He was the one player that created something in the first half. He was quiet in the second half and did not get many chances. He was replaced by Fred in the 83rd minute with United 2-1 up. ★★★★★★
Wout Weghorst: It was not a great day for the Dutchman against Fulham. He was unable to get many chances towards goal, with his first shot not actually a shot, more of a back pass. He was put in the number ten role. ★★★★★
Antony: Replaced McTominay 58′. He helped United on the attack with led to the penalty. He was lively since his introduction. It was good that he recovered from illness ahead of this match. Superb player on his day. ★★★★★★★
Fred: Replaced Rashford 83′. Came on giving more energy with United in the lead. He got his fourth assist of the season for Fernandes’ second goal of the match. He was an important substitute for United. ★★★★★★
Goals: Bruno Fernandes 75′ penalty’, 90+6′, Marcel Sabitzer 77′; Aleksandar Mitrović 50′
Assists: Luke Shaw 77′, Fred 90+6′; Issa Diop 50′
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw; McTominay (Antony 58′), Sabitzer; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford (Fred 83′); Weghorst
Substitutes Not Used: Butland; Lindelof, Malacia, Dalot; Mainoo; Pellistri, Elanga
Bookings: Harry Maguire 21′; Andreas Pereira 18′, Willian s/o 72′, Aleksandar Mitrović 72′
Written by John Walker
source AEsport.tv – Manchester United Live Stream Now
Manchester United face Fulham in the Emirates FA Cup quarter final at Old Trafford this afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side will play their second quarter final of the season days after reaching their third quarter final in the UEFA Europa League, where they will face Sevilla over two legs next month. This match against Fulham is the final match for United prior to the international break, then the season will continue with United playing nine matches in April – another busy month.
Should United beat Fulham and earn a semi final place in the FA Cup this season, the match against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the Premier League would be postponed as that is the weekend the semi finals will be played at Wembley, so United would need to find the time to reschedule that match, plus the one against Brighton and Hove Albion that should have been played this weekend. Should United go all the way in both competitions, they will have a busy period ahead.
United and Fulham have already met at Craven Cottage in the Premier League this season, just prior to the FIFA World Cup where United won 2-1 with Alejandro Garnacho scoring the winner in in the last minute of added time. United will face Fulham again at Old Trafford on the final day of the Premier League season. The draw for the semi final of the FA Cup should be done prior to this match commencing, providing extra time is not needed between Brighton and Grimsby Town.
United and Fulham have met 87 times in all competitions in the history of both clubs. United have won 53 times, drawn 20 times and lost 14 times. Earlier this season United beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage, just prior to the FIFA World Cup with Christian Eriksen and Alejandro Garnacho scoring either side of Dan James’ equaliser. This will be the second meeting of the two teams this season – United face Fulham at Old Trafford in the final Premier League match this season.
United and Fulham have met 14 times in the FA Cup – United have won eight times, drawn four times and lost twice. The last defeat to Fulham in the FA Cup came back in 1908. United have scored 27 goals, conceded 15 and kept four clean sheets. The last time the two teams met in the FA Cup was back in 2013 – a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford with Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and a brave from Javier Hernandez before Aaron Hughes scored a late consolation goal.
Andreas Pereira, Dimitar Berbatov, Andy Cole, Louis Saha, Edwin van de Sar, Paul Parker, Kieran Richardson, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Chris Smalling, Tim Fosu-Mensah, George Best and Charlie Mitten have all played for both Manchester United and Fulham. Best is probably the most well-known along with van de Sar, Parker, Cole, Berbatov, Mitten Saha and Smalling. Pereira is doing well at Fulham after being sold by United. He has three goals and six assists in 31 appearances so far.
Written by John Walker
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