Youssef En-first-half Nesyri’s goal gave Morocco a suspenseful 1-0 victory against Portugal on Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium, making them the first African country to advance to the World Cup semifinals.
With a determined second-half effort, the Atlas Lions, who were also the first Arab side to reach the last four, added Portugal to their list of European victims.
After making an ineffective cameo as a second-half replacement and failing to net his first knockout-round goal in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo most likely played his final World Cup game.
En-header Nesyri gave Morocco the lead in the 42nd minute as they made a remarkable late-game comeback.
After halftime, Portugal put more pressure on Morocco, but Morocco held on even though they were down to 10 players because three of their best defenders were hurt and their captain, Romain Saiss, had to be replaced.
Even though Portugal didn’t have many clear-cut chances, they still lost a World Cup quarterfinal for the first time. The hostile crowd probably helped the North Africans win, though.
Five-time Awarded the Ballon d’Or, Fernando Santos introduced Ronaldo early in the second half, but he was unable to save the Euro 2016 champions. Instead, Morocco had another historic day after shocking Belgium and Spain in a shootout in Qatar.
At Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, Walid Regragui’s team will play either France, the defending champion, or England. Morocco, which has yet to concede at this World Cup, will think it can defeat any of those teams.
The first half hour saw Portugal have the bulk of the possession, but neither team came close to scoring until Joao Felix’s diving header in the fifth minute, which Yassine Bounou saved.
But Morocco always looked like a threat, and for the Africans, Sofiane Boufal curled a shot right at Diogo Costa and Selim Amallah blasted a shot over the goal.
Strikes by En-Nesyri
When Morocco surged ahead just before halftime, it came as no surprise.
Yahya Attiat-Allah, a left defender, crossed the ball, but Portuguese goalkeeper Costa was never going to get there, so En-Nesyri, a striker for Sevilla, finished the job with a thunderous header.
Bruno Fernandes’ remarkable collision of the crossbar with a bouncing ball from the right side of the box just seconds later nearly gave Portugal an equalizer.
Just before halftime, Attia-Allah, who was filling in for the injured Noussair Mazraoui, missed a shot following another quick counter.
After Fernandes fell to the ground at the opposite end under pressure from Achraf Hakimi, Portugal’s players were still arguing for a penalty.
Four minutes after the break, Costa just about stopped Hakim Ziyech’s right-side free kick from going all the way in, giving Morocco a two-goal lead.
In the 51st minute, Santos quickly called for his captain, bringing on Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo.
The fact that Saiss was carried off on stretchers handed Morocco, who were already missing injured defenders Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd, a further setback.
As Portugal began to swarm the opposing goal, Fernandes nearly missed bringing the score back to even when he struck from the edge of the area.
Portugal was generally kept at bay by Morocco, but Bounou needed to be at the top of his game to deflect Felix’s shot with eight minutes left.
The majority of the eight additional minutes were spent by Portugal camped in the Moroccan half, and Ronaldo nearly got his chance when Bounou stopped his low shot.
Morocco’s replacement player, Walid Cheddira, was sent off after getting two yellow cards in two minutes.
When Costa was clear through, Zakaria Aboukhlal could have put the game away, but instead he dinked right at him.
But despite Pepe’s close-range miss at the very last second, his side managed to maintain their advantage and go down in history.