Morocco made history on Saturday night after eliminating Portugal from the quarterfinals of the FIFA World cup at the Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar. Youssef En-Nesyri’s all-important goal in the first half helped the Atlas Lions to punch above their weight making it the first African to advance past the last eight of the tournament.
It was a mouthwatering clash as several African Soccer fanatics rallied behind Morocco because it was the only team out of the five that represented the African continent. The Moroccan side outdid Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010) to enter the last four of the biggest footballing spectacle in the world.
After the game, many Ugandans took to social media to show their support for Morocco with many guaranteeing another good performance in the next round for the team while others called upon the Ugandan government to empower Uganda Cranes so that it also qualifies for the international showpiece.
Former Uganda Cranes Captain, Denis Onyango congratulated Morocco on his Twitter handle @masindeOnyango “Congratulations Morocco!! The first ever African country to reach the semi-finals of the world cup. Incredible performance by the Atlas Lions. Strength, determination, discipline, and team spirit. Portugal outclassed”, he said
“Morocco beats Portugal 1:0 and has qualified for semifinals, am proud to come from Africa most especially Uganda, and the Cranes is my symbol”, another fan called Bonny Wandulu used Twitter handle @bonnywandulu
Emmanuel Dombo used his Twitter @emmanueldombo. “When Morocco topped their group, the nay Sayers thought it was a fluke! When they beat Spain’s former champions, they said it was mere luck, now they have beaten Portugal and Ronaldo and they are the 1st African/Arab country to play in the WC Semifinals. Congratulations”
@johnOlupot3 “They beat Canada, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal to qualify for the semi-Finals. They are also Africa’s number one tourist destination, followed by Uganda. Congratulations Morocco! Arica is proud of you”.
Managed by Walid Regragui, the Atlas Lions have been rock-solid at the back, boasting of their near-perfect defense with just one goal conceded so far in the competition, which came in a group-stage victory over Canada.
Coach Regragui is mostly credited for bringing back to the squad their star player Hakim Ziyech who had announced an early retirement after falling out with the former head coach, Vahid Halihodzic. However, Regragui wasted little time in recalling Ziyech and included him in the world cup squad.
Before Morocco’s triumph, the best that the African teams had done in the previous editions of the tournament is qualifying for the quarter-finals in 1990, 2002, and 2010 respectively. Cameroon was the first team to reach the quarter-finals during the famous Italia 90 after stunning reigning champions Argentina in the opening match, finishing top of the group ahead of Romania, and then defeating Colombia 2-1 after extra time to reach the quarter-finals.
Their performance against Colombia in the round of sixteen brought hope, which didn’t last long before they succumbed to England 2-3 after extra time. In 2002, Senegal produced a stiller performance when they beat France and became the first African team to go through a World Cup group stage undefeated.
Senegal eliminated Denmark in the round of sixteen to set up a quarter-final match against Turkey, which they eventually lost. In 2010, South Africa, Ghana pulled off an impeccable performance to finish second in Group D to qualify for the round of sixteen. They went ahead to eliminate the United States of America to set a quarter-final with Uruguay, which eliminated them.
But among the three, Ghana was perhaps the unluckiest. As their quarter-final match neared its climax with the two teams still tied in a one-all draw, the Ghanaians had an opportunity to seal a victory, but Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez blocked what would be the game-changing goal with his hands.
Although Suarez was sent off, Ghana missed the resultant penalty as well as losing the subsequent penalty shoot-out. Morocco will now face France in the semifinal. France also eliminated England in the last quarter-final of the day.