Morocco becomes first ever African team to reach the World Cup semifinals with historic victory over Portugal



Morocco made history on Saturday as the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final, defeating Portugal 1-0 to continue its sparkling run in Qatar.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored the only goal of the match and climbed highest to head the ball into the net just minutes before the break, as the Moroccan defense once again kept a clean sheet.

The Atlas Lions have become one of the stories of the tournament, holding fellow semi-finalist Croatia to a group stage draw, beating Belgium, Spain and now Portugal on their way to a semi-final.

“It used to be only the Moroccans who supported us, now it’s the Africans and Arabs,” manager Walid Regragui said ahead of the quarter-final, referring to the exciting atmosphere that accompanied his team at every game.

And the Al Thumama Stadium sounded on Saturday with cheers, drums and whistles as if almost an entire continent and an entire region were inside, witnessed by their team who made history.

The defeat for Portugal marked the end of what will likely be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup, as even he couldn’t make a dent in Morocco’s defense and walked down the tunnel in tears after the final whistle.

Meanwhile, the Atlas Lions launched Regragui into the sky in their now trademark victory celebration.

The last time these two teams met, at the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo scored the only goal of the match. This time, Ronaldo started on the bench for the second consecutive match.

Both teams started well, with Portugal dominating possession but unable to break the well-organized Moroccan defence, who only conceded one goal during Qatar 2022.

Two attempts from João Félix were the only real Portuguese threat in the first 30 minutes – the first, a powerful, accurate header that forced goalkeeper Yassine “Bono” Bounou into action and the second, a shot that ricocheted off two players, ricocheting wildly, but land on top of the net.

Instead, it was Morocco who broke through three minutes before the break as Yahia Attiyat-Allah drove the ball perfectly into the penalty area and En-Nesyri rose highest, well above goalkeeper Diogo Costa and Rúben Dias, to head the ball into the net.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored the only goal of the game.

Ronaldo entered the fray just after the break for his 196th international appearance, becoming the joint most capped player of all time.

But even he couldn’t put his authority on the line as Portugal spent most of the second half out of the box, held in place by a defiant Moroccan defence.

All shots that got past the defensive lines were marked by Bounou who plucked a powerful strike from Bruno Fernandes from the air and minutes later tapped Felix’s effort over the crossbar with his outstretched hand.

Morocco supporters in the country's capital, Rabat, react after their country's victory over Portugal.

As regular time ticked down eight minutes of stoppage time, Ronaldo also had a chance to equalise, but his low shot was again saved by Bounou.

Coaches, support staff and players from both sides tensely sniffed the sidelines as the game began in the dying minutes.

Walid Cheddira was red carded for two yellow cards in as many minutes, leaving his team to defend their small lead with just 10 men in the last six minutes.

Zakaria Aboukhlal broke loose on the counter-attack, only needing to get around Costa to seal Morocco’s victory, but failed to do so, while Pepe’s header for Portugal in front of goal went just wide.

Moroccan fans celebrate in Casablanca.

In the end, however, Morocco held on for a deserved and famous victory that will be remembered for years to come.

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