FIFA Qatar World Cup: Africa’s Semifinal Glass Ceiling Broken By Morocco
Sonita Ngunyi Nwohtazie
The Atlas Lions of Morocco have once again changed the narratives of African football beating giant Portugal 1-0 in the quarter-finals of the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup. That victory saw the side create a milestone for the Atlas Lions and the continent as a whole.
The first-half goal that secured Morocco’s spot in her first-ever semi-finals came from a header from Youssouf en-Nesyris at the Al Thumama Stadium.
Christiano Ronaldo who started the game as a substitute came in the second half and tried to salvage the tournament for the Portuguese. Despite all attempts, Portugal failed to break the solid defence and outstanding goalkeeping of Morocco Yassine Bounou, eliminating Portugal from a place in the semifinals.
Yassine Bounou has been outstanding so far in the tournament, keeping a clean sheet in his previous games. He recorded a clean sheet against Belgium, Croatia, and Spain during the knockout stage, and Portugal in the quarter-finals saw him record a third MOTM. His saves on Saturday repelled both Joao Felix and Christino Ronaldo on many occasions.
“As our coach said, we are here to change the mentality. This feeling of inferiority, we need to get rid of it. The generation coming after us will now know that Moroccan players can create miracles” Yassine Bounou said.
Coach Walid Regragui’s tactical masterclass has once again overshadowed his opponent even with 10 men after Cheddira received a second yellow card. The only successive African coach at the 2022 World Cup to carry his team to the semifinals has proven his might with his tactical techniques.
He said: “We have beaten Spain, Portugal, and Belgium without conceding, that is not a miracle that is working hard. We have made our people happy and proud, our continent happy and proud. What is important for future generations is we have shown that an African team can get to the semi-finals of the world cup or even the finals why not?”
Morocco who is unbeaten in all five games in the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup has only conceded one goal (an own goal) in the round of 16 for the first time after 36 years where in 1986 Morocco defeated Portugal 3-1 during the knock out Stage, setting another record. The team finished first in Group F.
Unlike Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 who failed to break the semifinal barrier, Morocco’s victory has transcended the hopes that other African teams can dream of winning the FIFA World Cup. The first battle for the title will be a semifinal showdown against defending champions France on Wednesday, December 14.
Should Morocco succeed in creating another upset again, they will become the first African team at the final of the FIFA World Cup and have a chance to grab the trophy for the first time. Even if they fail the French test, Walid Regragui and his boys will be proud of themselves for having put Africa back on the map.