Morocco lifted African flag high as they became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup as Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half winner added Portugal to the list of shocked teams in Qatar.
Striker En-Nesyri profited on a mistake from Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa to head home the historic strike for not only Walid Regragui’s side — but the entire African continent.
Not even the 51st minute introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo — once again left on the bench by his manager Fernando Santos — could inspire a Portugal comeback, as Bruno Fernandes hit the crossbar while Goncalo Ramos and Bernardo Silva missed the target from good positions.
Late on, Morocco required heroics from goalkeeper Bono who saved from Joao Felix and Ronaldo while Pepe missed a sitter in the final minute of eight in stoppage time — which also saw substitute striker Walid Cheddira sent off for two quickfire yellow cards.
Morocco’s shock run to the last four — which has seen them beat Belgium, Spain and Portugal and concede just one own goal in five World Cup matches — sets up a semi-final clash with the winner of England and France’s blockbuster quarter-final.
Meanwhile, Fernando Santos’ side were warned about En-Nesyri’s threat in the air as he fired over a free header from a corner, while Selim Amallah and Sofiane Boufal went close in quick succession but both failed to find the target.
Eventually, Morocco’s resilience paid off three minutes before half-time as Portugal goalkeeper Costa came for Attiyat Allah’s long hanging ball from the left and collided with his own defender in Dias, leaving En-Nesyri to nod home.
A frantic end to the first half saw Fernandes crash a dipping volley against the crossbar before seeing a penalty challenge waved away by referee Facundo Tello when put through on goal moments later.
Morocco started the second period strongly, with Hakim Ziyech testing the gloves of Costa from a free-kick — a major chance which prompted the introduction of Ronaldo on 51 minutes
But it was Goncalo Ramos who was on the receiving end of a major chance immediately after Ronaldo’s entrance, heading Otavio’s defense-opening cross wide from inside the box.
Bernardo Silva had two great opportunities in quick succession to level but curled over from the edge of the area before failing to connect in the box after a smart free-kick move.
Yet none of those chances compared to the three that fell Portugal’s way in the final 10 minutes. First, Felix’s rasping drive towards the top corner was tipped over by Bono — who had to be equal to Ronaldo’s low effort when the 37-year-old ran through one-on-one.
Morocco were close to finding a second when Zakaria Aboukhlal burst clear through but his clumsy chip was easily saved by Costa — yet Pepe had an even better chance at the other end as he headed wide from inside the six-yard box following Rafael Leao’s cross.
The full-time whistle sparked jubilant scenes from the Morocco players and their thousands of supporters in the stands — while Ronaldo immediately marched off the pitch in tears in what is likely to be his last World Cup appearance.