It’s the first time an African team has qualified for the FIFA World Cup semifinals
Morocco recorded one of the biggest shocks in the history of the FIFA World Cup with a stunning 1-0 win against Portugal, becoming the first African team to qualify for the semifinals of the tournament.
A single goal towards the end of the first half from Youssef En-Nesyri proved enough to frustrate Portugal, who – despite the second-half introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo – couldn’t break down a spirited Moroccan resistance in what is one of the biggest days in the history of African football.
Portugal, who once again left Ronaldo on the substitutes’ bench, dominated possession throughout but struggled to create the type of gilt-edged chance against arguably the best defense in the tournament. They went behind towards the end of the first half when En-Nesyri rose highest to head home past Diogo Costa to spark frenzied scenes inside the Al Thumama Stadium.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes came close to leveling the scores just moments later, but his outstanding effort rebounded off the Moroccan crossbar.
Morocco 🇲🇦 under Walid Regragui at this World Cup. #FIFAWorldCup ✅goalless 0-0 against Croatia 🇭🇷 ✅2-0 against Belgium 🇧🇪 ✅last 16 win over Spain 🇪🇸 ✅quarter-final win over Portugal 🇵🇹 Beating two favourites Spain and Portugal. Incredible Give him several flowers 💐 pic.twitter.com/5Xnouylw8C
— Mimi Fawaz (@MimosaFawaz) December 10, 2022
Ronaldo, the top scorer in the history of international football, was introduced after 50 minutes but was largely anonymous, except for one chance at the death when his thunderous shot was saved by Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
The North African team had conceded just one goal in Qatar – an own goal against Canada – but rode their luck at times, with Bounou producing an excellent save from Joao Felix as Portugal poured forward in the final minutes.
Morocco, who were badly affected by injuries ahead of the match, lost captain Romain Saiss when he was stretchered off midway through the second half. However, they refused to drop their heads and seemed content to sit back and soak up pressure for much of the game, but their defensive organization proved too much for a desperate Portugal to overcome.
The scale of their task became even more difficult when Walid Cheddira was issued with a second yellow card early into ten minutes of injury time, but the Africans held firm to record the most famous victory in their history, and an unforgettable day for African football as a whole.
As for Ronaldo, he rushed from the field in tears at the final whistle, possibly bringing the curtain down on his career on the world stage.
Morocco will play the winner of Saturday’s second quarterfinal between England and France on Wednesday, with a place in next Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final the prize.
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