The Atlas Lions of Morocco has become the first African country to advance to the World Cup semi-final stage, following their stunning 1-0 win over Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium.
Youssef En-Nesyri header in the 42nd minutes was the deceive goal that separated the two sides and earn Morocco the much needed victory to not only seal a spot in the semi-final, but setting a remarkable record for Africa as they become the first nation from the continent to reach the final 4.
The Moroccans were impressive and well organised defensively. Their defenders were able to stop the Portugal from penetrating through their goal despite the huge pressure from their forwards.
Morocco vs Portugal, FIFA World Cup 2022, December 10, Al Thumama Stadium [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
The Atlas Lions got their goal after a goalkeeping error from Diogo Costa, with En-Nesyri heading home Yahya Attiat-Allah’s cross as the Portugal keeper hesitated.
Bruno Fernandes almost equalised moments later when he produced an audacious half volley which rattled the crossbar, before Morocco spurned a great chance to go further ahead when Attiat-Allah skewed a shot wide after a fine counter-attack.
Ronaldo came on in the 51st minute for his 196th Portugal cap — equalling the FIFA men’s record for international appearances held by Kuwait‘s Bader al-Mutawa in the process.
Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou produced a fingertip save to turn a driving shot from Joao Felix over the bar in the 83rd minute and was also called upon to stop an effort from Ronaldo in stoppage time.
There were further late nerves for Morocco as substitute Walid Cheddira was sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession while Pepe headed wide in the dying stages, but Regragui’s side held on for another memorable victory following their round-of-16 win against Spain.