Giant-killers Morocco top Portugal to reach World Cup final 4

Doha, Dec 10 (EFE).- Morocco made history here Saturday, besting Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 1-0 to become the first-ever African team to qualify for the World Cup semifinals.

Fresh off beating Spain on penalties in the round of 16, the Moroccans entered the quarterfinal at Al Thumama Stadium having conceded only once in four games and they stuck with their disciplined, defense-first approach against a side led by the all-time goal leader in men’s international soccer.

Ronaldo, 37, is also the only man to score in five different World Cup tournaments. Yet the Portugal captain and five-time Ballon d’Or was a sub for the second straight match.

Against Switzerland in the round of 16, coach Fernando Santos started Goncalo Ramos instead of Ronaldo and the 21-year-old accounted for half of Portugal’s goals in a 6-1 rout.

And Ramos got the nod again on Saturday, but the Moroccan defense prevented the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva from providing the young striker with service.

As was the case against Spain in the knockout stage, the Atlas Lions were content to let Portugal have most of the ball while holding the European squad to just five attempts in the first half.

Three of those attempts were by Joao Felix, who tested goalkeeper Yassine Bounou in the 5th minute and fired over the cross-bar before Bounou’s Sevilla teammate Youssef En-Nesyri put Morocco ahead in the 42nd minute with his third World Cup goal.

Six minutes into the second half, Santos replaced Ruben Neves with Ronaldo and swapped out Raphael Guerreiro for Joao Cancelo.

Portugal cranked up the intensity, but struggled to bring pressure to bear on Bounou, who dealt with a strike from Felix in the 83rd minute and a Ronaldo effort in stoppage time to seal the triumph for Morocco, who played the final six minutes with 10 men after Walid Cheddira picked up his second yellow card of the contest.

Next up for Morocco is the winner of the final quarterfinal pitting defending champions France against England.

EFE jap/dr

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