Morocco Advances, Becomes The First African National Team To Reach The FIFA World Cup Semifinals

Morocco 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 France. 

Much was expected from  the clash of two European titans, France against England, and the game lived up to its expectations. Neither team was able to maintain control as momentum shifted one direction, then the other, with England starting the brighter before France capitalized on a short spell of pressure. In the end it all came down to the goal scored by France striker Olivier Giroud and Harry Kane’s penalty miss that could have brought an equalizer for England. An exciting match ended with a victory for France.

The second semi-final will no longer have choreography. Brazil’s dream to win the sixth world cup trophy was finally shot down. It never rains in Doha, but Neymar and his team were watering the pitch with tears in Education City Stadium December 9. The World Cup favorites were eliminated by Croatia in the quarter-finals in a show of remarkable solidarity for 120 minutes and remarkable composure in the shoot-out. Therefore Croatia will face Argentina for a place in the final. Argentina  went to hell and back, collapsing deep into second-half stoppage time to squander a two-goal lead. But after a fraught period of extra time Argentina came out on top of a ludicrous bout that ended with Lautaro Martínez scoring the decisive spot-kick in a penalty shootout victory. By the end Lionel Messi’s mesmeric first-half assist and nonchalant second-half penalty for his 10th World Cup goal, to equal Gabriel Batistuta’s record for Argentina, finished as mere footnotes.

Soon we will know the finalists of the World Cup in Qatar, the question on everyone’s lips is whether Morocco can pull off the surprise of the century and win the World Cup.