Morocco extended their dream run in Qatar and became the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the fifa world cup with victory.
Youssef En-Nesyri’s imposing header in the 42nd minute was enough for the North African side to send former European champions Portugal out of the quadrennial tournament.
MOROCCO TO THE SEMI-FINALS! 🇲🇦@adidasfootball | #Fifa World Cup
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Portugal started again with Ronaldo on the bench, but brought him on early in the second half after leading 0-1 at half-time. But resilient Morocco defended with everything they had to turn the slim lead into victory. Morocco were led by a man in stoppage time when Walid Cheddira were sent off after picking up two yellow cards in one minute, but with less than five minutes left Portugal failed to take advantage of the situation.
Morocco will now face the winners of the last quarter-final between England and France in the last four stages on Thursday.
En-Nesyri leaped high into the air to score the game’s only goal just before half-time at Al-Thumama Stadium and dealt a major blow to the established order of football.
The result will be widely celebrated across Africa and the Arabic-speaking Middle East, desperate to see one of their teams vying for football’s biggest prize.
A moment in timeA moment in historyThe FIRST EVER African nation to reach a #FIFAWorldCup semi-final 🇲🇦❤️ https://t.co/SeAOKngZna
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Morocco had already taken the scalps of Belgium and Spain in this tournament but the victory over Portugal is of much greater importance.
It was also one of Morocco’s best performances in Qatar, full of determined defenders and cunning counters, keeping a collection of world stars at bay despite losing key defender Nayef Aguerd to injury before the match and his back-four. partner and captain Romain Saiss at the start of Game Two.
Portugal will see this as a missed opportunity against the tournament’s lowest-ranked team and a disappointing call-up for 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.
Morocco, again loudly encouraged by the majority of the 44,198 spectators, said they were tired after their round of 16 success against Spain and immediately went into defensive mode as Portugal attacked from the start.
A historic pride of the Atlas Lions 🦁@EnMaroc | #FIFAWorldCup https://t.co/MU9FMIRaHo
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A fourth-minute free kick for Portugal from wide on the right was swung into the penalty area and was blocked by Joao Felix’s diving header, producing a fine save from Yassine Bounou.
But the offer quickly dried up afterwards, with Morocco closing passing lanes and frustrating the Portuguese forwards.
Joao Felix had two more half chances in the first half, but Morocco gained confidence and found a sudden spring in their step, breaking frequently on the counterattack.
Left-back Yahya Attiat-Allah made several runs down the flank, giving Selim Amallah a good chance in the 35th minute, which he couldn’t convert.
But seven minutes later, a high ball from the back into the Portuguese box was met by an imposing header from En-Nesyri, edging past both goalkeeper Diogo Costa and defender Ruben Dias to give Morocco the lead. .
Youssef En-Nesyri: Rocketman 🚀🇲🇦 https://t.co/EHuCnFFqEf
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Portuguese frustration was evident as they swarmed Argentine referee Facundo Tello late in the first half, complaining that several penalty appeals had been dismissed.
Morocco came close to the second goal four minutes into the second half when Jawad El Yamiq touched Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick, but Costa was in place this time to block.
Ronaldo’s 51st-minute entry was met with a chorus of mockery, but he breathed new energy into the Portuguese side for whom Goncalo Ramos, the hat-trick hero in their 6-1 win over Switzerland in the round previous, missed with a close header in the 58th minute.
Bruno Fernandes struck over the crossbar five minutes later as Portugal sent in more attack and Morocco began to sit deeper. Bounou saved Joao Felix again seven minutes from time.
Moroccan Walid Cheddira was sent off in stoppage time after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession.
But his team, much to the delight of their raucous support, held on for a famous victory.
(With agency contributions)