France’s Kylian Mbappe at training; Morocco's Achraf Hakimi
France’s Kylian Mbappe at training; Morocco's Achraf Hakimi

Companions Mbappe of France, Hakimi of Morocco to slug it out in semis

“After we play against Morocco, I have to destroy my friend,” Mbappe said in a video on a trip to Qatar in January with his club Paris St Germain.

DOHA: Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi will put their friendship aside when France plays Morocco in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday and both may try to honour a promise they made.

“After we play against Morocco, I have to destroy my friend,” Mbappe said in a video on a trip to Qatar in January with his club Paris St Germain.

“I’m going to kick him,” a smiling Hakimi responded.

With Mbappe on the left flank of France’s attack, he will cross paths with right back Hakimi, the player he took under his wing when the Moroccan joined PSG from Inter Milan in 2021.

The pair sit next to each other on plane trips, they play video games and holiday together.

Although Morocco will not have any special plan to shackle Mbappe, as England did with Kyle Walker in close attendance and doubling down on him in its 2-1 quarter-final loss, coach Walid Regragui has complete faith in Hakimi.

“I have no doubt that Hakimi will be on top form to get the better of his friend,” Regragui told a news conference on Tuesday.

Mbappe has scored five goals and delivered two assists at this World Cup while Hakimi has been key in helping Morocco concede only 10 shots on target in its five matches.

Hakimi celebrated his winning penalty against Spain in the last 16 by imitating a penguin - something he does with Mbappe and Sergio Ramos at PSG.

Mbappe, who also visited Hakimi at his hotel in Doha on one of his days off at the World Cup, was among the first to congratulate him when Morocco qualified for the quarter-finals.

France captain Hugo Lloris is confident their friendship will be put on hold at the Al Bayt stadium.

“The event will take over. Even if you’re friends off the pitch, it’s the World Cup so you separate the two,” he told a news conference.

The French fans will be largely outnumbered by the Morocco supporters at the Al Bayt stadium and Les Bleus know that they will be jeered and whistled throughout.

“They’re benefiting from a huge support, I’ve seen this and my observers have told me about. We know it’s going to be extremely noisy, it’s part of the context and we’ll have to be ready for it,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.

“Good for them. We have to prepare for the game, but also for the environment of the game.”

Lloris added: “We’re going to have to be ready for the noise”.

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