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Morocco dominates Portugal, Ronaldo becomes the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup

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There’s no reason Morocco can’t go all the way to the title either, having topped a group that included second-seeded Belgium and fellow semi-finalists Croatia and now beating two European heavyweights in Spain – after a penalty shootout in the round of 16. — and Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Morocco became the first African country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup by beating Portugal 1-0 on Saturday, likely ending Cristiano Ronaldo’s chances of winning football’s biggest prize.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored the winning goal in the 42nd minute to continue Morocco’s unlikely run that generated a surge of pride in the Arab world at the first World Cup staged in the Middle East.

One of football’s greatest ever players, Ronaldo, 37, didn’t start for the second game in a row but came on in the 51st minute and missed a chance to equalize in stoppage time.

The five-time World Player of the Year is set to end his career without winning the World Cup or ever reaching the final. He left the pitch just after the final whistle and was crying as he walked through the tunnel.

Morocco will face France or England in the semi-finals.

It’s a defining moment in the history of the World Cup, with an African nation finally reaching the levels usually reached by European or South American teams. Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) all reached the quarter-finals without going any further.

And off the pitch, this Moroccan team – coached by Frenchman Walid Regragui and made up of 14 foreign-born players – unites the Arab world, inspiring displays of Arab identity from fans in different countries.

There’s no reason Morocco can’t go all the way to the title either, having topped a group that included second-seeded Belgium and fellow semi-finalists Croatia and now beating two European heavyweights in Spain – after a penalty shootout in the round of 16. — and Portugal in the quarter-finals.

The Moroccan defense have yet to concede a goal from an opposing player at this year’s World Cup – the only one they have allowed was an own goal – and they have stifled a Portugal side who beat Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 to throw themselves into the favourites.

In a game played to a backdrop of incessant whistles and boos from Morocco’s passionate fans, the team relied almost exclusively on counterattacks and scored on one of them.

A cross was swung in from the left and En-Nesyri jumped between Portuguese goalkeeper Diogo Costa and defender Ruben Dias to head for the empty net.

Ronaldo, who will be 41 by the time of the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada, was looking to reach the semi-finals for only the second time after 2006.

Despite his best efforts, he barely touched the ball until stoppage time when he came in behind the Moroccan defense on a long ball forward. His low shot was stopped by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who hadn’t had much to do before that point.

Substitute Walid Cheddira was shown a red card for Morocco in added time for picking up a second yellow card in as many minutes. Portugal centre-back Pepe then headed away from inside the penalty area.

Ronaldo fell to his knees in dejection. While Lionel Messi will be in the semi-finals with Argentina, the other great footballer of this generation will not.

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