If there is one team that has a plan to go far at the World Cup in Qatar, it is Morocco. With Brazil having bitten the dust, the Atlas Lions are the other major team with a specific roadmap to reach the final, although reaching the semi-finals is already quite an achievement.
History!— George Addo Jnr (@addojunr) December 10, 2022
Morocco🇲🇦 have become the first African nation to make the World Cup semi finals.
The Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0 in the quarters and will face either France or England next.
At the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Morocco met Portugal. One side had just beaten Spain and provoked a sporting civil war in the country, the other had beaten Switzerland and calmed the waters with the possible stampede of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Moroccan football federation (FRMF) distributed tickets to fans and even chartered five flights from Casablanca so that no one would miss the historic match against Portugal. The reality was different and there were areas of the stands with no fans, although the Moroccan tide was in the majority and cheered their team relentlessly.
#المستحيل_ليس_مغربيا— FRMF (@FRMFOFFICIEL) December 10, 2022
إلى نصف النهائي 🤩#DimaMaghrib 🇲🇦 #TeamMorocco #FIFAWorldCup @pumafootball pic.twitter.com/vPZvLnRUtY
Regragui has turned Morocco into a perfect machine, a kind of Croatia, but not as experienced as Modric's side. Here there is a perfect mastery of transitions, they move up and down in a coordinated way and make gold out of set pieces.
Portugal did not dominate the first half, they found an opponent who did not hesitate to go forward, to attack, to use the flanks. It was a very different game to the one they had played against Spain. Morocco closed in at the back and counter-attacked on the flanks time and time again.
In the 41st minute came the goal for the Atlas lions, En-Nesyri connected with a good header that had the help of Costa, who came out badly over the top. A perfect goal, on the verge of half-time, which drove the fans crazy and brought colour to the stands.
MOROCCO ARE THE FIRST AFRICAN TEAM TO REACH THE WORLD CUP SEMIFINALS 🇲🇦🌍 pic.twitter.com/iwjhxvGuCd— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 10, 2022
In the second half, the stands were still suspiciously empty. A strange thing because Qatar preferred to open the stadium gates rather than give a poor image of empty seats.
Few Portuguese, including Georgina, Cristiano Ronaldo's partner, who burst into applause when the 7 came on for Ruben Neves after the break alongside Cancelo.
Another set-piece and another dangerous ball into the six-yard box was saved by Costa with his chest in a great save that would have made the game impossible for Fernando Santos' side.
Portugal's mastermind, Bruno Fernandes decided to put the Portuguese machine into action with play down the flanks and crosses that came close to scoring. Morocco defended and, when they could no longer do so, Regragui called on more soldiers for the cause.
Dari, Cheddira and Benoun were the first changes. En-Nesyri left the field to the warm applause of the North African fans who decided to be player number 12 and put Portugal under pressure when their team faltered.
Portugal controlled the game, pushed Morocco back in their half, but that didn't matter to Regragui's side who defended as they did against Spain. Bono became one of the best goalkeepers of the World Cup along with Croatia's goalkeeper.
Here’s how Sonnenallee, often called Berlin’s “Arab Street”, is celebrating Morocco becoming the first-ever Arab (and African) team to reach the World Cup semi-finals. #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/PzqYXaB4PH— Enrique Anarte (@enriqueanarte) December 10, 2022
A save from Joao Felix and another from Cristiano kept his team's clean sheet and kept their hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive.
In the extra eight minutes there was time for Cheddira to see red for two absurd fouls. Playing with 10 men was an incentive for Morocco, the feat was within their grasp. Portugal did not know how to manage the last few minutes well, many crosses and flat balls that the Moroccan centre-backs dealt with without any problem.
Once again at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Walid Regragui is thrown into the air by Morocco players 🎉🇲🇦 pic.twitter.com/LcI06Itmp6— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 10, 2022
A missed one-on-one from Morocco and a header from Pepe were the last few moments. The Eagles are already flying to the semi-finals. On the way they leave Cristiano Ronaldo's last game in a World Cup that ended with tears in his eyes and glory for a country proud of its team.