Morocco reaches World Cup semifinals in victory over Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo

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Africa lastly has a crew within the World Cup semifinals, and so does the Arab world. Morocco delivered a seminal second within the practically 100-year historical past of soccer’s largest event, beating Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal crew 1-0 Saturday within the one other stunning consequence within the first World Cup staged within the Middle East.

While a tearful Ronaldo headed proper down the tunnel — and possibly into worldwide retirement — after the ultimate whistle, Morocco’s gamers tossed their coach within the air and waved their nation’s flag as they linked arms in entrance of celebrating followers.

“Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou stated. “Morocco is ready to face anyone in the world. We have changed the mentality of the generation coming after us. They’ll know Moroccan players can create miracles.”

Youssef En-Nesyri scored the profitable purpose within the forty second minute to proceed an unbelievable run that has generated an outpouring of satisfaction within the Arab world, inspiring shows in Arab id from followers in numerous international locations.

Africa can also be rejoicing at lastly having a nation advancing to the degrees sometimes solely reached by European or South American groups. Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) all reached the quarterfinals however obtained no additional.

Jawad El Yamiq of Morocco celebrates after the World Cup quarterfinal match between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on December 10, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.
Jawad El Yamiq of Morocco celebrates after the World Cup quarterfinal match between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on December 10, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.

ANP through Getty Images

Morocco has damaged by means of, organising a semifinal match towards both France or England.

The 37-year-old Ronaldo, one in every of soccer’s biggest gamers however now a fading drive, did not begin for the second straight sport and got here on instead within the 51st minute. He missed his solely probability to equalize in stoppage time.

The five-time world participant of the 12 months is about to complete his profession with out capturing the World Cup or ever attending to the ultimate. He walked proper off the sector after the ultimate whistle, solely briefly stopped by two Morocco gamers wishing to shake his hand and a spectator who confronted him close to the doorway to the tunnel, and was crying as he headed to the locker room.

If that is the top for Ronaldo at worldwide stage, he’ll end with 118 objectives — a file in males’s soccer — and a European Championship title however not soccer’s largest prize. He solely obtained so far as the semifinals on the World Cup, in 2006.

“Our players are distressed,” stated Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who shrugged off questions on his personal future and added that he did not remorse not beginning Ronaldo. “Cristiano is a great player and he came on when we thought it was necessary. But no, no regrets.”

There’s no motive why this Morocco squad — coached by French-born Walid Regragui and containing 14 gamers born overseas — can’t go all the way in which to the title. They topped a gaggle that included second-ranked Belgium and fellow semifinalist Croatia and have now taken down two of Europe’s heavyweights in Spain — after a penalty shootout within the spherical of 16 — and Portugal within the quarterfinals.

“What’s important for future generations is we’ve shown that it is possible for an African team to get to the semifinals of the World Cup. Or even the final, why not?” Regragui informed reporters, in keeping with Reuters.

“In one press conference three or four matches ago, I was asked we could win the World Cup. And I said, ‘Why not?’ We can dream. Why shouldn’t we dream? If you don’t dream, you don’t get anywhere. It doesn’t cost you anything.”

Morocco’s protection has but to concede a purpose by an opposition participant at this 12 months’s World Cup — the one one it has allowed was an own-goal — and it stifled a Portugal crew which beat Switzerland 6-1 within the final 16 to thrust itself among the many favorites.

In a sport performed to the backdrop of continuous whistles and jeers by Morocco’s passionate followers, the crew relied nearly solely on counterattacks and scored from one in every of them.

A cross was swung in from the left and En-Nesyri leapt between Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa and defender Ruben Dias to go into the empty internet.

Ronaldo, who will likely be 41 by the point of the 2026 World Cup within the United States, Mexico and Canada, barely obtained a contact of the ball till stoppage time when he obtained in behind Morocco’s protection off a protracted ball ahead. His low shot was saved by Bounou.

“I was afraid he might play,” Regragui stated of Ronaldo, “because I know he can score out of nothing.”

Substitute Walid Cheddira was proven a purple card for Morocco early in stoppage time for amassing a second yellow card in as many minutes.

After Portugal middle again Pepe headed huge from contained in the six-yard field within the sixth minute of added time, Ronaldo fell to his knees in dejection.

While Lionel Messi will likely be within the semifinals with Argentina, the opposite soccer nice of this era will not be.

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