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Fourth time lucky: Morocco finally make World Cup semis for Africa

Morocco made history on Saturday by becoming the first African nation to reach a World Cup semifinal after beating Portugal 1-0.

It is a seminal moment in World Cup history, as an African nation finally advanced to the levels typically only reached by European or South American teams.

Each of the previous three African sides to reach a quarterfinal got no further past this stage – Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

It was a strong start for the Atlas Lions, scoring just before half-time when Youssef En-Nesyri beat the Portuguese keeper to a cross to head home.

Despite coming under sustained pressure for large parts of the second half, the North Africans held firm and had a chance in injury time to score a second.

Morocco forward Walid Cheddira was given two yellow cards in the space of seconds, forcing his side to see the game out in the final minutes with 10 men.

There’s no reason why Morocco — coached by French-born Walid Regragui and containing 14 players born abroad — cannot go all the way to the title, either, after topping a group that included second-ranked Belgium and fellow semifinalist Croatia and now taking down two of Europe’s heavyweights in Spain — after a penalty shootout in the round of 16 — and Portugal in the quarterfinals.

Morocco’s defense has yet to concede a goal by an opposition player at the Qatar 2022 World Cup — the only one it has allowed was an own-goal — and it stifled a Portugal team that beat Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 to thrust itself among the favorites.

In the semifinals, Morocco will be taking on world champions France who beat England 2-1.

Giroud header sends France past England into semifinals


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