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Recap: Morocco vs Portugal – World Cup 2022 | Qatar World Cup 2022 News

Morocco’s remarkable World Cup campaign has reached new heights after the Atlas Lions defeated Portugal 1-0 to become the first Arab and African nation to ever reach the semi-finals of the tournament.

Youssef En Nesyri’s lightning header in the 42nd minute proved the difference for coach Walid Regragui’s side, whose determined defensive performance on Saturday capped off a remarkable display in Qatar, where they have now played more than seven hours of football without conceding. to give to an opponent.

Not even Walid Cheddira’s red card in the third minute of extra time couldn’t take the shine off their against-the-odds win, sparking an explosion of joy among the tens of thousands of Moroccan fans gathered at Al Thumama Stadium packed together.

Highly sought-after Portugal, who had dominated the ball all along, proved unable to unlock their rivals’ back-line, despite all their possession and record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo being called up from the substitutes’ bench shortly after the break.

The five-time World Player of the Year is about to finish his career without capturing the World Cup or ever reaching the final, but his performance off the bench saw him become the joint all-time leading player in international men’s football. with 196 caps.

Morocco, whose improbable run has sparked a wave of pride in the Arab world at the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East, will now play either England or France in the semi-finals on December 14.

Argentina and Croatia compete in the last four the day before.

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Morocco will now play against England or France in the semi-finals on December 14 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Resolute defending, savvy counters

Morocco had already conquered the scalps of Belgium and Spain in this tournament, but the victory over Portugal is of much greater significance.

It marked one of the side’s better performances in Qatar, full of determined defending and shrewd counter-attacks, keeping a collection of world stars at bay despite the loss of key defender Nayef Aguerd to pre-match injury and his back-four partner and captain Romain Saiss early in the second half.

Portugal will see it as a missed opportunity against the lowest placed side in the tournament’s left and a disappointing curtain call for 37-year-old Ronaldo.

Morocco, again vociferously cheered on by the majority of the 44,198 strong crowd, said they were tired after their last 16 success against Spain and immediately went on the defensive as Portugal attacked from the start.

A free kick for Portugal in the fourth minute from the right was swung wide into the box and met by a diving header from Joao Felix, leading to a fine save from Yassine Bounou.

But the supply then quickly dried up as Morocco closed the overtaking lanes and frustrated the Portuguese attackers.

Joao Felix had two more half chances in the first half, but Morocco gained confidence and found a sudden bounce in their stride, breaking frequently on the counter-attack.

Morocco fans burst with joy after their side's victory
Morocco fans created an exciting atmosphere in the Al Thumama stadium during Saturday’s game [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Drama in the second half

Left-back Yahya Attiat-Allah made several quick runs down the flank, giving Selim Amallah a good chance in the 35th minute, which he was unable to convert.

But seven minutes later, a high ball from the fullback in the Portuguese penalty area was met by a towering header from En Nesyri, who outwitted both goalkeeper Diogo Costa and defender Ruben Dias to put Morocco ahead.

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Portugal’s frustration was evident when they swamped Argentina’s referee Facundo Tello at the end of the first half, complaining that several penalty appeals had been dismissed.

Morocco came close to scoring a second goal four minutes into the second half when Jawad El Yamiq hit Hakim Ziyech’s swinging free-kick, but Costa was in place to block this time.

Ronaldo’s participation in the 51st minute was met with a loud chorus of jeers, but he injected new energy into the Portuguese side for whom Goncalo Ramos, the hat-trick hero of their 6-1 victory over Switzerland in the previous round, missed with a close-in header in the 58th minute.

Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar five minutes later as Portugal threw more into the attack and Morocco began to sink deeper. Bounou made another save from Joao Felix with seven minutes remaining as their rivals turned up the pressure.

But the Atlas Lions rearguard eventually proved sufficient as they held on for a famous win to the delight of their raucous support.

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