Morocco became the first African country and first Arab nation to reach the World Cup semifinals by beating Portugal 1-0 in Qatar. The dream lives on and is stronger than ever after a beautiful, red-tinged evening in Doha.
This World Cup will be remembered more as the Morocco World Cup than the Qatar version after the Atlas Lions beat Portugal 1-0 on Saturday to move into the last four of the competion.
No Arab team has got close to such a stage before. Nobody can say now that Morocco are not capable of claiming the golden trophy. The question now is not if this unbelievable team, who have gone further in the tournament than Brazil, can actually lift the trophy, but who can stop them? Not Belgium, Spain or Portugal. After five games, not a single opposition player has scored against them.
Head coach Walid Regragui and his stars will never forget Al-Thumama Stadium, a happy place where they defeated Belgium and then Canada in the group stage, and have now made it three from three. It is crazy, but they have won more World Cup games at this stadium than in their entire history in the competition.
If this was familiar territory for the team, the same could not be said of the quarterfinals, but this was a deserved win from a team that obviously knows how to defend, but are also capable of attacking at pace and with skill.
They have seen off the challenge from three major European powers, three teams seen as potential winners, and the thousands of fans in the area and millions at home have a side of which to be proud.
It was always going to be a tight affair, Portugal’s 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland on Tuesday notwithstanding. As had been mentioned time and again, the Moroccan defense had been breached just once in the eight previous games. Regragui may have been coach for just over three months, but the way the 47-year-old has organized the team, it feels like years.
The unforgettable journey to the last four had taken its toll, however. Bayern Munich full-back Nasser Mazraoui did not make it and neither did West Ham center-back Nayef Aguerd. His partner in the backline, Romain Saiss, did start after a hamstring scare, but was strapped during the warm-up. It felt a little like this may be a game too far for the leader of the team.
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