Football NewsMbappe and Hakimi Throw Friendship out the Window in the 2022 World Cup
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Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi are friends and teammates at Paris Saint-Germain, but they will face off against each other in the World Cup semi-finals.

Much was made of the battle between Kylian Mbappe and Kyle Walker ahead of France’s World Cup quarter-final against England, but the semi-final meeting with Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi will be just as difficult for the tournament’s leading scorer.

Mbappe has five goals in Qatar, two of which came in the last-16 win over Poland. However, he failed to score against England, and Hakimi, like Manchester City defender Walker, is a quick full-back with an attacking threat who will look to neutralize one of France’s main threats.

“He knows Mbappe better than I do because he trains with him every day,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said of his right-back. I’m not going to devise a strategy to counter Mbappe.”

This matchup is spiced up by the fact that Hakimi and Mbappe are friends and teammates at Paris Saint-Germain. They won’t be friends for 90 minutes or more at Al Bayt Stadium, but it makes for one of the more intriguing battles, with only one of France or Morocco advancing to the final.

Mbappe and Hakimi are “inseparable” in the PSG dressing room. Their friendship extends beyond the confines of their club, with the French forward paying a visit to his club colleague on a day off between their respective countries’ last-16 victories.

Both contributed significantly to those victories, Mbappe with his second-half double and Hakimi with the game-winning penalty against his birth country, Spain. The celebration that followed Panenka, the ‘penguin,’ was a reference to an inside joke shared with Mbappe by Hakimi and teammate Sergio Ramos.

Once their semi-final meeting was confirmed, the pair exchanged supportive messages. Their friendship is highlighted by the fact that Hakimi was the first to learn that Mbappe would be staying at PSG rather than joining Real Madrid, where Hakimi and Ramos both played.

Morocco’s run to the semi-finals has been historic, with Walid Regragui’s team becoming the first African nation to reach this stage. They’ve done so thanks to a strong defense that has only allowed one goal all tournament, and Mbappe is well aware of what his friend – and the rest of the Atlas Lions’ squad – are capable of after shutting out Croatia, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal and conceding only an own goal against Canada.

Of course, it’s not just Hakimi versus Mbappe. Right-back for England Walker kept the PSG star scoreless in the quarter-final, but goals from Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud were enough to advance Les Bleus to the final four.

France became the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup after winning their quarter-final match. Fellow contenders Brazil and Portugal were eliminated, with the latter becoming the latest side to go scoreless against Morocco, and Mbappe will now need to do something no other opponent has done this tournament: break through the Atlas Lions’ defense.

This is a defense that has remained strong despite personnel changes throughout the tournament. Hakimi is the only member of the back four to have started every game, while goalkeeper Bono has also missed one, and the outcome in Al Khor may depend on who is fit to start for Regragui’s side.

Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd were both injured and will be evaluated before the game, while Romain Saiss was stretchered off after starting the game with heavy strapping on his leg. The situation would be difficult for any opponent, let alone the world champions.

Nonetheless, Morocco enters the game with a unique advantage: a defender who is intimately familiar with one of France’s most dangerous threats. The difficulty stems from the fact that this applies both ways.