Three previous African sides had reached the quarter-finals of the competition—but could not take that step further.
This time, it was different.
Marvellous Morocco have lit up this World Cup—and their fans got their reward by witnessing their side becoming the first from their continent to reach the semi-finals.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal were sent home, and the Atlas Lions go roaring on, courtesy of Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half headed winner.
“We are becoming a team everyone loves because we are showing what we can achieve,” said victorious boss Walid Regragui.
“If you show the passion, heart and belief, you can succeed and my players have shown that. It is not a miracle—those in Europe might say it is, but we have beaten Portugal, Spain, Belgium and drawn against Croatia without conceding. That is the result of hard work.
“African and Arab teams work hard but we have made our people happy and proud. The whole continent is proud. When you watch Rocky Balboa, you want to support him and we are the Rocky of this World Cup.”
Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) had all fallen at the quarter-final hurdle but Morocco broke the glass ceiling to cause pandemonium at Al Thumama Stadium.
Having whistled each touch of the ball from the Portuguese, the watching supporters’ jeers turned to a cacophony of cheers as substitutes piled on to the pitch at full-time.
“Seer, seer, (go, go),” chanted the fans. “Dima Maghrib (Forever Morocco),” screamed others.
Boss Regragui, who has masterminded this run, was hoisted into the air by his players, who then sprinted towards their supporters behind the goal with arms aloft.
Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “The noise in this stadium is incredible. I am trying to think of when such a shock as this has happened in the World Cup.
“They deserve it, not only for the skill and effort but that noise just keeps on turning up.”— BBC