Morocco becomes first ever African team to reach the World Cup semifinals with historic victory over Portugal
Morocco made history on Saturday by becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals by beating Portugal 1-0 to continue their impressive run in Qatar.
Youssef N-Nessiri scored the only goal of the game, rising highest to slot the ball into the net minutes before halftime, while Morocco’s defense once again kept a clean sheet.
The Atlas Lions have become one of the stories of the tournament, holding fellow semi-finalists Croatia to a draw in the group stage, and beating Belgium, Spain and now Portugal to reach the semi-finals.
“Before it was only Moroccans who supported us, now it’s Africans and Arabs,” manager Walid Regaragui said before the quarter-finals, referring to the electric atmosphere that accompanies his team in every game.
And Al Thumama Stadium erupted with cheers, drums and whistles on Saturday as almost the entire continent and region was in, cheering on their team making history.
Defeat for Portugal marked the end of what could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup as he couldn’t even make a dent in Morocco’s defense and left the tunnel in tears after the final whistle.
The Atlas Lions, meanwhile, launched Regargui into the air in celebration of their now trademark victory.
The last time these two teams met in the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game. This time Ronaldo started on the bench for the second match in a row.
Both teams started brightly, with Portugal dominating but unable to break down a well-organized Morocco defense that has conceded just one goal during Qatar 2022.
Two efforts from Joao Felix offered the only real Portuguese threat in the opening 30 minutes – the first, a powerful, accurate header forcing goalkeeper Yassin “Bono” Bonu into action and the second, a strike that sent two players Deflected, brutally ricocheting, but landing on top of the net.
Instead, it was Morocco who found the breakthrough three minutes before halftime as Yahya Atiyat-Allah floated the ball perfectly into the box and An-Nessiri slotted it into the net, well above goalkeepers Diogo Costa and Ruben Dias. was above all to head.
Ronaldo came on immediately after the break for his 196th international appearance, becoming United’s joint-most capped male player of all time.
But even he could not stamp his authority on the game as Portugal were stuck outside the box for most of the second half, held by a Moroccan defence.
Any shot that made it past the front lines of defense was marshalled by Bounu who flicked a powerful Bruno Fernandes strike out of the air and pointed Felix’s effort over the crossbar with his outstretched hand minutes later. done
With eight minutes of stoppage time ticking into regulation, Ronaldo also had a chance to equalize but his low shot was once again saved by Bonu.
Coaches, support staff and players from both sides lined the sidelines in tense fashion as the game entered its closing minutes.
Walid Chedira received a red card for two yellow cards in as many minutes as his side defended their slim lead with just 10 men in the last six minutes.
Zakaria Aboukhalal broke free on the counter-attack and only Costa needed to score but was unable to do so to seal Morocco’s victory, while Pepe’s header looked just wide for Portugal in front of goal.
In the end, however, Morocco held on for a deserved and famous victory that will be remembered for years to come.