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World Cup: Morocco stun Portugal to make semis

Morocco's sensational form in the World Cup continued on Saturday as they knocked out much-fancied Portugal to progress through to the semi-finals.

Youssef En-Nesyri's fine header just before half-time was enough to secure another shock victory for the north African country, who had never previously got past the round of 16 in the World Cup and were knocked out in the group stage four years ago in Russia.

Amazing run continues

After surprisingly topping Group F in Qatar thanks to a goalless draw with Croatia and wins over Belgium and Canada, The Atlas Lions battled past Spain in the first knockout round, winning on penalties 3-0, and now their dream run goes on.

In a tournament littered with shock results, Morocco are fast becoming the story of Qatar 2022, and have made history as the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

They join Croatia and Argentina in the last four and will play either France or England in the semi-finals on Wednesday.

Portugal, who again named Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, were favourites to come out on top and follow up their brilliant 6-1 demolition of Switzerland in the last 16 but their campaign instead ends in disappointment at the quarter-final stage.

Ronaldo exits in tears

Ronaldo did come on in the second half and Fernando Santos' side pushed hard for an equaliser in Doha but Morocco's defence held firm. Ronaldo may not feature in another major tournament for his country and was seen in tears when quickly leaving the pitch at the final whistle.

Walid Regragui's men protected their lead superbly, withstanding eight minutes of injury time at the end. They also had to play out the final five minutes of stoppage time with 10 men when substitute Walid Cheddira was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in the space of a minute and as Portugal became increasingly desperate they dug in.

The decisive goal came in the 42nd minute when Sevilla forward En-Nesyri met Yahia Attiyat Allah's delivery from the left, rising highest to nod it in in front of Portugal keeper Diogo Costa who had come off his line.

Defensive resilience

Backed by the majority of the noisy crowd in the Al-Thumama Stadium, Morocco were organised and resilient in the face of plenty of Portuguese pressure and did offer a threat on the counter-attack the longer the game went on.

Bruno Fernandes went close to scoring in the second period and Joao Felix was denied by a brilliant finger-tip save from Morocco goalkeeper Bono as Portuguese dominated possession but they couldn't find a way through with defender Pepe heading narrowly wide at the very end.

Morocco, 9/1 to Win the World Cup, now have momentum ahead of the semis and have proven already in Qatar they can handle so-called superior opposition, having beaten European heavyweights Belgium, Spain and now Portugal to get this far.

The Atlas Lions have conceded just one goal in the competition in five games - and that was an own goal against Canada - and their celebrations at the end were lengthy as they revelled in knocking out the 2016 European champions after previously dumping out 2010 world champions Spain in the match before.

They become the first African side to reach the last four of the biggest international tournament of them all and will now believe they can cause further upsets in what is turning out to be a very unpredictable World Cup.

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