Morocco Become First African Side To Reach World Cup Semi-Final
Morocco became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals as Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half goal sealed a tense 1-0 victory over Portugal on Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.
The Atlas Lions, also the first Arab team to make the last four, added Portugal to their list of European scalps with a resolute second-half performance.
Cristiano Ronaldo has likely played his last World Cup match after making an ineffectual appearance as a second-half substitute, failing to score his first knockout-phase goal at the tournament.
Morocco took a 42nd-minute lead through En-Nesyri’s header as they came on strongly late in the first period.
Portugal piled on the pressure after the break but an injury-hit Morocco, without three of their four first-choice defenders once skipper Romain Saiss was forced off, hung on despite being reduced to 10 men in added time.
The partisan crowd undoubtedly helped the North Africans over the line, although Portugal struggled to create many clear-cut chances as they lost a World Cup quarter-final for the first time.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo was sent on early in the second half by coach Fernando Santos but could not rescue the Euro 2016 winners.
Instead it was another famous day for Morocco, after previous upset wins over Belgium and Spain, on penalties, in Qatar.
Walid Regragui’s men will face England or holders France in the semi-finals at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.
Morocco will believe they can topple either of those sides, having still only conceded once at this World Cup.
Portugal enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening half-hour, but Joao Felix’s fifth-minute diving header, saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, was the closest either side came to an early goal.
Morocco always looked dangerous, though, and Selim Amallah ballooned a shot over and Sofiane Boufal curled straight at Diogo Costa for the Africans.
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