Qatar 2022: Morocco continue storied run to down Portugal in quarter finals
FIFA World Cup Portugal Morocco


Morocco have done the impossible by knocking Portugal out of the World Cup and qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time in their history.

This is also the first time an African team will be making the semi-finals of the storied tournament in its 92-year history.

Shakira sang This time for Africa when the global showpiece was taken to the continent for the first time in 2010 but the song turned out to be a prophetic statement for the future.

Morocco, playing only in their sixth World Cup in their history, surpassed all expectations by qualifying first for the quarter finals after never making it to that stage. Then they made history by doing better than Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana to become the first African team that will feature in a World Cup semi-final match.

A masterclass in defending from Walid Regragui's side saw Morocco stave off any pressure from Fernando Santos men after they went ahead in the 42nd minute of the game thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque header. That also made them the first African team to win a World Cup knockout game in 90 minutes.

Ronaldo looked on from the bench as everything unfolded but even his introduction in the 51st minute was unable to change Portugal's fortunes in the tie.

This is Portugal's first quarter final exit in the tournament, as their history has shown that they make it all the way to the semis at the very least once they cross the round of 16. It is also the possible curtain call of Ronaldo, who left the pitch in tears, on the international stage.

Tired but not down: Morocco survive killer onslaught to earn semis ticket

Morocco came into the game like they did against Spain in the round of 16 - as underdogs. However, there was something they had going for them so far: their impeccable defensive record.

Morocco have only conceded one goal all tournament and it was an own goal. That also means that no single opposition player has been able to find the back of any net which the Atlas Lions were guarding in the tournament.

Regragui, who is the first African coach to make the knockout rounds, did not deviate from his tactic as he made it clear to his boys: don't concede and take your chances when you can.

And that they did when, after almost one half of defending, they found an opportunity for a cross in the 42nd minute, which Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri rose highest to finish.

Morocco dialled down on their defensive tactics in the second half to keep Portugal quiet as they pushed for an equaliser desperately. They even lost their captain Romain Saiss to injury to further pile pressure on Regragui, who is now missing three of his most important defenders in Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd.

Goalscorer En-Nesyri was sacrificed for centreback Badr Benoun in the 65th minute when Portugal's threat became more intense.

They eventually saw the game out and almost doubled their lead when Zakaria Aboukhlal broke through on the counter and scuffed his chip for Diogo Costa to save easily in the 96th minute.

Morocco have done it for Africa, the Arab world and the Muslim community and will be facing off against the winner of France vs England in the second semi-final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.