Morocco’s impressive World Cup campaign reached new heights after the Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0 to become the first Arab and African country to reach the tournament’s semi-finals.
Youssef En-Nasiri’s 42nd-minute header marked the difference for Walid El Rakraky’s side, whose resolute defense capped Saturday’s impressive performance in Qatar that has now seen him play more than seven hours of football without conceding a goal from an opposition player.
Not even Walid Chedira’s red card in the third minute of extra time could take away the sparkle of their victory against expectations, which sparked joy among the tens of thousands of Moroccan fans who gathered inside El Thumama Stadium.
An outstanding Portuguese team, who controlled the ball throughout, proved unable to open up their opponents’ defense despite their possession and called record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench shortly after half-time.
The five-time World Player of the Year is set to end his career without winning a World Cup or reaching a final, but appearances off the bench have seen him create all appearances in international football with 196 selections.
Morocco, whose unlikely run stole the pride of the Arab world in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, will face either England or France in the semi-finals on December 14th.
Argentina and Croatia faced each other in the last four the previous day.
Resolute defense, skillful counters
Morocco had already scored the scalps of Belgium and Spain in this tournament, but the victory over Portugal is of much greater importance.
It was one of the team’s best performances in Qatar, replete with determined defense and deft counters, maintaining a host of international stars despite losing key defender Naif Aguird to injury before the match and his partner in the back four and captain Romain. Says. early. the other half.
Portugal will see it as a missed opportunity against the lowest-ranked team remaining in the tournament and a disappointing call-up for Ronaldo, 37.
Morocco, who was once again warmly welcomed by the majority of the 44,198 crowd, said they were exhausted after their Round of 16 victory over Spain and immediately went into defensive mode when Portugal attacked from the start.
A free kick went to Portugal in the fourth minute from the right inside the penalty area, and Joao Felix met it with a header that was brilliantly saved by Yassine Bono.
But supplies soon dried up after that as Morocco blocked the passes and thwarted the Portuguese attackers.
Joao Felix had two more chances in the first half, but Morocco gained confidence and found a surprising spring in their step, breaking up the counter-attacks repeatedly.
Second half drama
Left-back Yahya Atiyatallah made several passes down the wing, giving Salem Amal Allah a good chance in the 35th minute, which he was unable to convert.
Sept minutes plus tard, cependant, un ballon haut de l’arrière latéral dans the surface of réparation portugaise a été accueilli par une tête haute d’En Nesyri, and a devancé le guard Diogo et le defenseur Ruben Dias for donner l’avantage In Morocco.
The Portuguese frustration was evident as they brought down Argentine referee Facundo Tello late in the first half, as they complained that several penalty requests had been denied.
Morocco came close to scoring the second goal four minutes into the second half as Javad Alimak scored a direct free kick from Hakim Ziyech, but Costa was in his place this time to block it.
Ronaldo’s entry in the 51st minute was met with a boisterous chorus of sarcasm, but he breathed new energy into the Portuguese side when Goncalo Ramos, triple hero in their 6-1 win over Switzerland in the previous round, failed during the shutdown. Header in the 58th minute.
Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar five minutes later as Portugal launched more attacks and Morocco began to go deeper. Bono made another save from Joao Felix seven minutes from time as the opposition increased the pressure.
But the Atlas Lions’ rear guard eventually proved enough, as they held on to a famous victory to the joy of their vocal support.