Morocco make history as first Arab country to reach World Cup semi-finals

Portugal manager Fernando Santos said that he would not change his decision of leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench even after his team was knocked-out from the World Cup due to a 1-0 defeat.

 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - Morocco v Portugal - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 10, 2022 Portugal's Bruno Fernandes shoots at goal. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARL RECINE)
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - Morocco v Portugal - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 10, 2022 Portugal's Bruno Fernandes shoots at goal.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARL RECINE)

Mococco extended their dream run at the World Cup on Saturday as they out-thought and out-fought Portugal in a 1-0 win to become the first-ever African country to reach the semi-finals thanks to a towering headed goal from Youssef En-Nesyri.

In the 42nd minute En-Nesyri leapt above the Portugal defenders to meet a Yahya Attiat-Allah cross, getting just enough of his head to the ball to tip it past goalkeeper Diogo Costa, who misread its flight and crashed into his own defender.

Portugal meanwhile struggled to break through the Moroccan defense, Bruno Fernandes coming closest with a shot off the bar shortly after Morocco's goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench six minutes after the break but was unable to help his team avoid defeat, with Morocco coming out as the winner to seal a semi-final showdown with either England or France, who play later on Saturday.

Morocco's Walid Cheddira was sent off after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession in extra time, meaning he will miss the semi-final.

Portugal coach does not regret leaving Ronaldo out

Portugal manager Fernando Santos said that he would not change his decision of leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench even after his team was knocked-out from the World Cup due to a 1-0 defeat against Morocco in their quarter-final clash on Saturday.

Portugal’s all-time leading goal scorer with 118 goals in 195 appearances, Ronaldo was benched for Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16 where the 21-year-old Ramos scored three in only his fourth appearance.

Ronaldo stormed off the pitch after the final whistle crying effusively while being comforted by his team mates.

"I do not regret (leaving Ronaldo on the bench)," coach Santos told a news conference on Saturday.

"It wouldn't change anything, in terms of the team I can't be thinking with my heart.

"I do not regret (leaving Ronaldo on the bench)."

Portugal coach Fernando Santos

"I used the team that played really well against Switzerland and there was no reason to change it (against Morocco).

 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - Morocco v Portugal - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 10, 2022 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after a Portugal's chance to score. (credit: REUTERS/CARL RECINE) FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Quarter Final - Morocco v Portugal - Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 10, 2022 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after a Portugal's chance to score. (credit: REUTERS/CARL RECINE)

"The strategic decision that I had to make was one of the hardest, but I can't think with my heart, I have to think with my head.

"It's not that Ronaldo is no longer a great player, that has nothing to do with it."

Morocco’s Atlas Lions extended their dream run and roared into the history books by becoming the first-ever African and Arab country to reach the final four of the tournament thanks to a Youssef En-Nesyri goal in the first-half.

Santos refused to comment on whether he will resign and said that he will talk to the Portuguese FA president over the next week about his future.

He said his team had difficulties finding spaces between the disciplined Moroccan defensive lines, and he praised their opponents for their effort, saying it was "completely their merit."

"Sometimes in football what you need is a little bit of luck," Santos said.

"We showed effort and quality, had several chances to score with Joao Felix, and Bruno Fernandes hit the bar, Pepe had a header in the end that could have been the equaliser... A bit of luck was missing."

Herzog congratulates Morocco on historic win

President Isaac Herzog congratulated Morocco on the victory on Saturday night, tweeting in French and Arabic “Congratulations to His Majesty the King of Morocco Mohammed VI and the people of Morocco for the historic achievement at the 2022 World Cup.”

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.