Teamwork makes the dream work

Morocco’s World Cup fairytale continues with Portugal win

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DOHA, Qatar — Morocco have turn out to be the primary African facet to succeed in a World Cup semifinal after dumping Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo out within the quarterfinals.

Youssef En-Nesyri obtained the one purpose in a dramatic 1-0 win at Al Thumama and denied Portugal what would have been a spot within the final 4 for the primary time for 16 years.

Morocco, who had substitute Walid Cheddira despatched off late on, arrange a semifinal in opposition to both France or England at Al-Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, the place they may once more be supported by a fierce crowd who roared them previous Portugal.

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JUMP TO: Participant scores | Finest/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

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1. Morocco make historical past by surprising Portugal

Morocco struck an enormous blow for African and Arab soccer by turning into the primary crew to succeed in a World Cup semifinal. Drawn in a gaggle with Belgium and Croatia, and having modified their coach simply months earlier than the event, they had been merely hoping for a run to the spherical of 16, however what they’ve achieved in Qatar is nothing wanting outstanding.

Their shock victory at Al Thumama — simply days after shocking Spain within the second spherical — was performed out amid an environment of ear-splitting whistles each time Portugal had the ball. They usually had lots — touching 80% possession at totally different factors within the recreation — however Morocco defended nicely and, notably within the first half, made essentially the most of their probabilities to interrupt rapidly.

En-Nesyri’s header simply earlier than half-time was helped by a mistake from Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa, who got here for a cross he obtained nowhere close to, however Morocco had been so assured on the ball once they had it, they absolutely deserved their lead when it got here.

Morocco ended the sport with out three of their common again 4 on the pitch, however head to the semifinals having conceded only one purpose of their 5 video games, and even that was an personal purpose in opposition to Canada.

Anticipate extra ferocious defending in opposition to both France or England within the semifinals however, after beating Spain and Portugal, Morocco might be sensing one other shock.

2. Yahya Attiat-Allah typifies Moroccan spirit

It was a significant blow to Morocco that they needed to identify a crew with out West Ham centre-back Nayef Aguerd and Bayern Munich full-back Noussair Mazraoui after each went off with accidents in opposition to Spain.

Instead of Mazraoui, coach Walid Regragui picked left-back Yahya Attiat-Allah, a 27-year-old who has spent most of his profession in Morocco aside from a brief spell in Greece. On paper it felt like a significant downgrade however that wasn’t the case.

Attiat-Allah, profitable simply his eighth cap, pushed Diogo Dalot — who had assists from right-back in opposition to South Korea and Switzerland — and obtained ahead himself, crossing the ball for En-Nesyri to attain simply earlier than half-time. Attiat-Allah then virtually made it 2-0 shortly afterwards following a lung-bursting run from the sting of his personal penalty space to get on the top of a speedy counter-attack.

With Dalot and Bruno Fernandes, Portugal’s proper facet has been a energy through the World Cup and never solely did Attiat-Allah cancel out the risk, he additionally created certainly one of his personal. If Mazraoui is match for the semifinal, it would give Regragui a variety headache, albeit one he is little question completely satisfied to have.

3. Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo blunted

Portugal started the match having averaged three targets a recreation in Qatar however regardless of having nearly all of the ball in opposition to Morocco, they could not make it rely. Eight totally different gamers have scored for Fernando Santos’ crew on the World Cup and it was the improper second for nearly all of them to have an off day.

Fernandes hit the crossbar, whereas Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos each had good probabilities, however the slick attacking swagger that had torn Switzerland to items was lacking. Bernardo Silva was sloppy on the ball and Fernandes was typically crowded out; Dalot was a risk from right-back in opposition to South Korea and Switzerland however solely often discovered the room to get ahead right here.

Portugal have been each good and unhealthy at this event and this was a nasty day, though Morocco deserve nice credit score for making it so arduous to create something of observe.

Cristiano Ronaldo, once more named on the bench, got here on early within the second half to equal FIFA’s official file for the most-capped worldwide males’s participant with 196, however even he could not discover one final nice World Cup second. If that is the final we see of certainly one of historical past’s nice gamers on this stage then it was a really meek solution to bow out.

Portugal had the gamers to succeed in a primary semifinal since 2006, however not the efficiency.

Participant scores (1 = worst, 10 = finest)

Portugal: Diogo Costa 3, Diogo Dalot 5, Raphael Guerreiro 4, Pepe 6, Ruben Dias 6, Ruben Neves 4, Otavio 5, Bernardo Silva 6, Bruno Fernandes 6, Joao Felix 6, Goncalo Ramos 5.

Subs: Joao Cancelo 6, Cristiano Ronaldo 6, Rafael Leao 6, Vitinha 6, Ricardo Horta 6.

Morocco: Yassine Bounou 7, Achraf Hakimi 7, Yahia Attiyat-Allah 8, Romain Saiss 7, Jawad El Yamiq 7, Sofyan Amrabat 8, Azzedine Ounahi 7, Selim Amallah 7, Hakim Ziyech 7, Sofiane Boufal 7, Youssef En Nesyri 7.

Subs: Achraf Dari 7, Walid Cheddira 6, Badr Benoun 7, Yahya Jabrane 6, Zakaria Aboukhlal 6.

Finest and worst performers

BEST: Yahia Attiyat Allah

Got here into the crew for the injured Mazraoui and was excellent at left-back, making the purpose for En-Nesyri.

WORST: Diogo Costa

The Portugal goalkeeper made an terrible mistake to present Morocco their purpose.

Highlights and notable moments

Youssef En-Nesyri scored a well-known purpose for Morocco within the first half.

And Cristiano Ronaldo may do nothing about it.,

After the match: What the gamers and managers stated

Postmatch quotes will seem right here…

Key stats (supplied by ESPN Stats & Data)

– Coming into the match, Morocco had been on a nine-match unbeaten streak in all competitions: the second-longest amongst groups nonetheless within the World Cup. Croatia, 11 (6-0-5, W-L-D); Morocco 9 (6-0-3); England, 5 (3-0-2.)

– En-Nesyri’s purpose was the second headed purpose ever scored by Morocco in World Cup historical past. The opposite was additionally by En Nesyri, within the 2018 World Cup vs Spain.

– Cristiano Ronaldo equalled FIFA’s official males’s all-time look file with Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa on 196. Although, in response to RSSSF, Soh Chin Ann (Malaysia) holds the all-time males’s file with 219.

– Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat has gained possession 41 occasions on the 2022 World Cup — essentially the most of any participant within the event.

– Morocco had 27% possession within the recreation however turn out to be the primary African facet into the World Cup semifinals.

– Portugal are 1-7-0 (W-L-D) when trailing at half-time on the World Cup. Their lone win got here vs. North Korea in 1966 (5-3.)

– Morocco’s pre-tournament odds to make the semifinal had been 35-1 at Caesars Sportsbook That was tied for seventh longest odds within the discipline.

Up subsequent

Morocco: Extremely, a World Cup semifinal in opposition to England or France is subsequent on the agenda on the Al Bayt Stadium on Dec. 14 at 10 p.m. native time / 2 p.m. ET.

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo and his facet are out and on the aircraft residence.

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