Morocco became the first African and Arab country to reach the World Cup semi-finals after beating Portugal 1-0 on Saturday. Youssef En-Nesyri scored the game’s only goal just before halftime at Al-Thumama Stadium to strike a blow against football’s established order and book a semi-final against England or France.
Morocco reaches the semi-finals of the Fifa World Cup
Africa and the Arabic-speaking Middle East will be thrilled to have a team in the World Cup. Morocco had already beaten Belgium and Spain. But the win over Portugal was considerably more significant. It was one of Morocco’s stronger performances in Qatar, with tenacious defending and canny counters, despite losing crucial defender Nayef Aguerd before the match and his back four companions and captain Romain Saiss early in the second half.
Portugal will see it as a squandered chance against the tournament’s lowest-ranked team and a heartbreaking farewell for Cristiano Ronaldo, 37. Morocco, cheered on by most of the 44,198-strong crowd, admitted they were tired after beating Spain in the last 16 and went into defensive mode when Portugal attacked. Yassine Bounou saved Joao Felix’s diving header from a fourth-minute Portugal free kick. Morocco barred passing lanes and frustrated Portuguese attackers.
Yahya Attiat-Allah made repeated runs down the left wing, giving Selim Amallah an excellent chance in the 35th minute. Seven minutes later, En-header Nesyri’s over Diogo Costa and Ruben Dias gave Morocco the lead. Portuguese players surrounded Argentine referee Facundo Tello at the end of the first half, screaming over missed penalty kicks. Jawad El Yamiq touched Hakim Ziyech’s inswinging free-kick four minutes into the second half, but Costa blocked it.
Ronaldo’s 51st-minute arrival was welcomed with jeers. Still, he did infuse new enthusiasm into Portugal, whose hat-trick hero from their 6-1 triumph over Switzerland missed a close-in header in the 58th minute. Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar five minutes later as Portugal attacked and Morocco retreated. Seven minutes later, Bounou stopped Joao Felix. Walid Cheddira was sent off after earning two yellow cards. His team, with boisterous backing, won a memorable game.