Copy of 2022-12-10T164900Z_1817985036_UP1EICA1APLIJ_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDCUP-MAR-POR-REPORT-1670691837065
Morocco fans react after their team beat Portugal 1-0 at the Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar to reach the semi-final of the FIFA World Cup. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: This World Cup in Qatar had already delivered countless heroes and memories, heartache and joy but Morocco topped it all as they wrote themselves into football folklore as they became the first Arab and African side ever to reach the semi-finals.

It was only three years since they suffered a shock defeat to Benin at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Now they are one match away from the World Cup final.

Portugal and their new hat-trick hero Goncalo Ramos stood in their way at the Al Thumama Stadium – a ground Morocco knew well having beaten both Belgium and Canada there in the group stage – but they could do nothing to stop the Atlas Lions from roaring into the last four after yet another incredible performance.

Another miracle

Morocco had produced one miracle by beating Spain in the last 16 clash but this win was another level altogether.

The early exchanges were being played at a slow tempo before Portugal had a huge chance after a free-kick was delivered into the Morocco box and Joao Felix forced Bono into a flying save following a powerful header.

Morocco immediately responded with an attack of their own which ended with a chance flying over the bar from Hakim Ziyech. They were growing in confidence and Selim Amallah should have done better from 10 yards out after connecting with a cross. Then Sofiane Boufal brought a save from Diogo Costa before they finally took the lead.

Youssef En-Nesyri became the first player to score three World Cup goals for Morocco as he rose higher than anyone to head past Costa. The keeper could have done better but was well off his line when he went for the cross.

Morocco deserved the lead, they had been fantastic on the ball, but Portugal almost leveled through an incredible piece of individual brilliance by Bruno Fernandes but his attempt from the tightest of angles came back off the bar.

Morocco's Yassine Bounou makes a save Image Credit: Reuters

Close call

The second half started and there was bad news for Morocco as their captain Romain Saiss had to be stretchered off. His replacement was Achraf Dari who was making just his fifth senior appearance for his country and his job was to stop Cristiano Ronaldo who was thrown on from the bench.

Fernandes came close again but his sweetly-struck attempt flew just over. The Morocco fans continued to play a huge part, cheering every interception and tackle by their players and gave an enormous roar whenever they broke forward.

Morocco went to five at the back in an attempt to keep Portugal at bay, they were hanging on and went deeper and deeper. But they held on to create history and now they will feel they can go all the way.