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Morocco beat Portugal to make World Cup history

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Action from the match between Morocco and Portugal
Action from the match between Morocco and Portugal

Morocco became the first African team to qualify for the semi-final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup after they pulled off a brave-hearted 1-0 win over Portugal at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.

Youssef En-Nesyri gifted Morocco the all-important goal in the first half, when he out-jumped Portuguese goalkeeper Diogo Costa to nudge in the ball. The Moroccan side outdid Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) to enter the last four of the biggest footballing spectacle in the world.

Managed by Walid Regragui, Morocco has been rock-solid at the back, with just one goal conceded, an own goal, in the World Cup so far. In the group stage, Morocco beat 2018 semi-finalist Belgium 2-0 and was equal to Spain throughout the round of 16, before trumping its neighbour. Not even the 51st minute introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo – once again left on the bench by his Manager Fernando Santos – could inspire a Portugal comeback, as Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar while Goncalo Ramos and Bernardo Silva missed the target from good positions.

Later on, Morocco required heroics from goalkeeper Bono who saved from Joao Felix and Ronaldo while Pepe missed a sitter in the final minute of eight in stoppage time – which also saw substitute striker Walid Cheddira sent off for two quick-fire yellow cards.

A frantic end to the first half saw Fernandes crash a dipping volley against the crossbar before seeing a penalty challenge waved away by referee Facundo Tello when put through on goal moments later. Morocco started the second period strongly, with Hakim Ziyech testing the gloves of Costa from a free kick – a major chance which prompted the introduction of Ronaldo on 51 minutes But it was Goncalo Ramos who was on the receiving end of a major chance immediately after Ronaldo’s entrance, heading Otavio’s defence-opening cross wide from inside the box. Bernardo Silva had two great opportunities in quick succession to level but curled over from the edge of the area before failing to connect in the box after a smart free kick move. (C.D) 

Monday, December 12, 2022 – 01:00

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