Morocco has eliminated Portugal to become the first ever African country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. The Atlas Lions fought Portugal in a 1-0 victory in Saturday’s quarter-final game at the Al Thumama Stadium at Doha in Qatar.
Youssef En-Nesyri scored the goal in the 42nd minute. The Moroccans have kept their fourth clean sheet in five games with the help of their goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo joined the game from the bench six minutes after the break but couldn’t help his team win. He walked off the field in tears after the game.
The Moroccans will take on the winner between France and England in the semi-finals. “How they’ve built up to this stage has been the most impressive thing,” Michael Oti Adjei of Ghana’s Media General Group said of Morocco to Al Jazeera. “They sacked the coach before the tournament and brought in somebody who was not afraid to make decisions and the tactical discipline.”
The semi-finals stage has mostly been reached by teams from Europe or South America. Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana all got to the quarter-finals in the past but failed to advance.
This is the sixth time Morocco has participated in the FIFA World Cup. Until this year’s history-making edition, they were part of the biggest football Mundial in 1970, 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2018. Their best showing was in 1986 when they made it to the Round of 16 but lost to West Germany.
Morocco got the top spot in Group F, winning against Belgium and Canada and drawing against Croatia. They whizzed past Spain in the Round of 16 through penalty shoot-outs at the end of a goalless draw in 120 minutes. They have had an unbeaten run so far and conceded only one goal on their way to the semi-finals.
Would they go on to reach the finals and perhaps win the title? May the odds be in their favor and the whole of Africa is behind them.
Elikem M. Aflakpui contributed to this report