(Football news) Morocco became the first African and Arab nation to reach a World Cup semifinal as they stunned the 2016 Euro champions Portugal 1-0. Sevilla striker En-Nesyri’s towering effort in the 42nd minute proved to be the only goal of the quarterfinal as Morocco defended firmly despite Portugal’s possession dominance at Al Thumama Stadium. It also meant Walid Regragui’s side made history as they reached the final four of the competition for the first time in their history as they get ready for the reigning World Champions France.
Before kickoff, all the focus was on Cristiano Ronaldo as he started on the bench for the second successive game after being left out of Portugal’s starting lineup for their round-of-16 win against Switzerland. Morocco surprised everyone when they took a shock lead in the 42nd minute as they seized on a goalkeeping error from Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa, with En-Nesyri rising the highest and heading home an inch perfect cross from Yahya Attiat-Allah’s cross as the Portugal keeper hesitated to catch the ball.
Bruno Fernandes almost equalised moments later when he produced a half volley which rattled the crossbar, before Morocco spurned an easy chance to go further ahead when Attiat-Allah skewed a shot wide after a fine counter-attack. Ronaldo did come on in the 51st minute for his 196th Portugal cap which equalled the FIFA men’s record for international appearances held by Kuwait’s Bader al-Mutawa but he failed to make an impact. Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou was again the hero when he 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 the dying moments.
There were further late nerves for Morocco as substitute Walid Cheddira was sent off for two quick yellow cards as Pepe had the best chance for an equaliser which he ultimately headed wide in the dying stages, but Regragui’s side held on for another memorable night. They will have the whole of Africa and the Arab nations cheer for them to create history by becoming the first African country to win the World Cup.