Morocco became the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup after defeating Portugal 1-0.
Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half header secured a historic win for Morocco, who will play defending champions France or England for a place in the final. Morocco have surpassed the three other African sides to reach the quarter-finals Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
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Cristiano Ronaldo has likely played his last World Cup match after making an ineffectual appearance as a second-half substitute, failing to score his first knockout-phase goal at the tournament.
Morocco took a 42nd-minute lead through En-Nesyri’s header as they came on strongly late in the first period. Portugal piled on the pressure after the break but an injury-hit Morocco, without three of their four first-choice defenders once skipper Romain Saiss was forced off, hung on despite being reduced to 10 men in added time.
The partisan crowd undoubtedly helped the North Africans over the line, although Portugal struggled to create many clear-cut chances as they lost a World Cup quarter-final for the first time.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo was sent on early in the second half by coach Fernando Santos but could not rescue the Euro 2016 winners.
Instead it was another famous day for Morocco, after previous upset wins over Belgium and Spain, on penalties, in Qatar.
Remember that There will be no World Cup title for Cristiano Ronaldo in what was likely his last appearance at soccer’s biggest tournament.
After being on the bench at the start for the second straight match, Ronaldo couldn’t help Portugal come back against Morocco, losing 1-0 in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The 37-year-old Ronaldo walked off the field in tears.
Ronaldo came on as a substitute early in the second half with his team already losing. He replaced midfielder Rúben Neves in the 51st minute for his 196th international men’s appearance, the most of all time along with Kuwait forward Badr Al-Mutawa.
Ronaldo, playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, had also been on the bench to start in the round of 16 against Switzerland, making an appearance as a substitute. Morocco took the lead with a header by Youssef En-Nesyri in the 42nd minute.
Ronaldo was among the first substitutions made by Portugal coach Fernando Santos and – after receiving the captain’s armband from defender Pepe – rushed onto the field and started cheering on his teammates. As time kept running out, he also raised his arms toward the Portugal fans – heavily outnumbered by the Moroccans – and asked for their support.
Ronaldo helped increase the intensity of the Portugal attack that had struggled to get past the well-organized Moroccan defense. He immediately created an opportunity with a cross into the area, then lost possession shortly afterward. He also set up a shot by João Félix in the 82nd, but his teammate’s strike was saved. Ronaldo’s last-gasp shot in stoppage time also was saved.
Ronaldo walked off the field after the final whistle and started crying by the time he entered the tunnel into the locker rooms.
Remember one thing that Ronaldo had said before the World Cup that he did not plan to retire from the Portuguese national team after the tournament in Qatar, and that he planned to play at least at the 2024 European Championship.
He remained with eight World Cup goals, one shy of Eusébio’s record with Portugal in the tournament.
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