Morocco made historical past Saturday as the primary African crew to succeed in a World Cup semifinal, defeating Portugal 1-0 to proceed its glowing run in Qatar.
Youssef En-Nesyri scored the sport’s solely purpose, rising highest to move the ball into the web simply minutes earlier than halftime, whereas Morocco’s protection as soon as once more saved a clear sheet.
The Atlas Lions have turn out to be one of many tales of the match, holding fellow semifinalist Croatia to a draw within the group stage, and defeating Belgium, Spain and now Portugal on their technique to a semifinal.
“Earlier than it was simply the Moroccans who supported us, now it’s the Africans and Arabs,” supervisor Walid Regragui mentioned earlier than the quarterfinal, referencing the electrical ambiance that has accompanied his crew at each recreation.
And the Al Thumama Stadium rang with cheers, drums and whistles on Saturday as if virtually a whole continent and area have been inside, witnessing their crew make historical past.
Defeat for Portugal marked the top of what’s prone to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup as even he couldn’t make a dent within the Morocco protection and was left in tears strolling down the tunnel after the ultimate whistle.
The Atlas Lions, in the meantime, launched Regragui into the air of their now trademark victory celebration.
The final time these two groups met, on the 2018 World Cup, Ronaldo scored the sport’s solely purpose. This time round Ronaldo began on the bench for the second consecutive match.
Each groups started brightly, with Portugal dominating possession however unable to breakdown the well-organized Morocco protection which has conceded only one purpose throughout Qatar 2022.
Two makes an attempt from João Félix provided the one actual Portuguese menace within the opening half-hour – the primary, a robust, correct header forcing goalkeeper Yassine “Bono” Bounou into motion and the second, a strike that deflected off two gamers, ricocheting wildly, however touchdown on high of the netting.
As an alternative, it was Morocco who obtained the breakthrough three minutes earlier than halftime as Yahia Attiyat-Allah floated the ball completely into the field and En-Nesyri rose highest, far above goalkeeper Diogo Costa and Rúben Dias, to move it into the web.
Ronaldo entered the fray simply after the break for his 196th worldwide look, changing into the joint most-capped males’s participant of all time.
However even he couldn’t stamp his authority on the sport as Portugal remained stranded exterior the field for a lot of the second half, held in place by a defiant Moroccan protection.
Any pictures that did make it previous the entrance traces of protection have been marshalled by Bounou who plucked a robust Bruno Fernandes strike out of the air and minutes later tipped Felix’s effort over the crossbar together with his outstretched hand.
As common time ticked into eight minutes of stoppage time, Ronaldo additionally had an opportunity to equalize however his low shot was as soon as once more saved by Bounou.
Coaches, assist workers and gamers from each side tensely prowled the sidelines as the sport opened up in its closing minutes.
Walid Cheddira was purple carded for 2 yellow playing cards in as many minutes leaving his crew to defend its slender lead with simply 10 males for the final six minutes.
Zakaria Aboukhlal broke free on the counterattack and solely needed to spherical Costa to seal Morocco’s victory however was unable to take action, whereas Pepe’s header for Portugal in entrance of the purpose glanced simply large.
In the end, nonetheless, Morocco held on for a deserved and well-known victory that will likely be remembered for years to come back.