InternationalThe fire of Morocco shocker

The fire of Morocco shocker

NOW it’s the African teams to shock the world as they celebrate Morocco’s stunning win over Portugal to become the first African nation in World Cup history to qualify for the semi-finals. 

The Moroccans delivered a seminal moment in the nearly 100-year history of football’s biggest tournament. With a 1-0 win to end Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal’s World Cup dream.

Ronaldo, rather surprisingly, was again relegated to the substitutes bench and was powerless to change the course of the match after coming on early in the second half, after Youssef En-Nesyri headed Morocco into a surprise 42nd minute lead. 

Having seen tournament favourites Brazil knocked out by Croatia on the previous day, Morocco’s victory was just the latest massive shock in the first World Cup staged in the Middle East.


Ronaldo was in tears as he was seemingly the first Portugal player to walk off the pitch. Barely noticing a pitch invader that briefly mobbed him as he headed straight down the tunnel in devastation. 

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For the 37-year-old – whose influence on the pitch for club and country is undoubtedly on the wane – it is likely to be his last appearance in a World Cup.

However, the day clearly belong to Morocco and their squad of history-making players, who tossed their coach into the air and waved their country’s flag. This is as they linked arms in front of celebrating fans at the end of the match. 


Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was among the standouts in a resolute defence from the African side, which again proved extremely difficult to break down having also kept Spain scoreless in the round of 16.

“Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” Bounou said after the match. “Morocco are ready to face anyone in the world. We have changed the mentality of the generation coming after us. They’ll know Moroccan players can create miracles.”

Portugal began the match having averaged three goals in Qatar but despite having the majority of the ball against Morocco. They couldn’t make it count. 

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Eight different players have scored for Fernando Santos’ team at the World Cup. It was the wrong moment for almost all of them to have an off day.

Fernandes hit the crossbar, while Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos both had good chances. The slick attacking swagger that had torn Switzerland to pieces was missing. 

Bernardo Silva was sloppy on the ball and Fernandes was often crowded out; Dalot was a threat from right-back against South Korea and Switzerland. But he only occasionally found the room to get forward here.


To be fair, Portugal have been both good and bad at this tournament and this was a very bad day, although Morocco deserve great credit for making it so hard to create anything of note.

En-Nesyri’s 42nd minute winner continued an improbable run that has generated an outpouring of pride in the Arab world, inspiring displays in Arab identity from fans in different countries. 

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Africa is also rejoicing, with Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) all reaching the quarter-finals but unable to take the next step.

Morocco have broke through and now face a semi-final against the holders France, who beat England 2-1 in the later game. 

For the moment, cheers to Morocco. 

Their extraordinary slice of history is being celebrated across the football world. Truly, what a stunner!

* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.

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