Soccer World Cup: "Made the continent proud": Morocco reaches semi-finals

The deafening cheers for Morocco's World Cup heroes echoed in the catacombs of Al-Thumama Stadium.

Soccer World Cup: "Made the continent proud": Morocco reaches semi-finals

The deafening cheers for Morocco's World Cup heroes echoed in the catacombs of Al-Thumama Stadium. There Cristiano Ronaldo disappeared sobbing into the dressing room, accompanied by a camera in front of the eyes of the football world.

On a historic World Cup evening, the superstar from Portugal, who had only been substituted on, was unable to prevent the ex-European champions from the tournament and the triumph of the outsider. Morocco is the first African team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

"We're showing the world what you can achieve even if you don't have that much talent or money. If you believe in it and approach it with determination, you can achieve a lot," said coach Walid Regragui, who his players like after the After the 1-0 (1-0) triumph on Saturday evening in the quarter-finals in Doha, they threw the round of 16 coup against Spain in high spirits. The North Africans celebrated wildly with their fans in red.

The players ran with a flag - half Qatar, half Morocco - to their supporters behind the goal they had previously defended so fiercely. "It's no wonder. Many consider it a miracle, especially in Europe. It's no wonder, it's the result of hard work. We've made the continent happy and proud," said Regragui.

Morocco rewarded for fierce defense

For his team, the dream journey continues and the grand finale on December 18th in Lusail beckons: For this, the Moroccans have to prevail against defending champions France on Wednesday (20:00 CET). The team around the former Dortmund and Paris professional Achraf Hakimi not only caused huge cheers among the 44,198 mostly Moroccan spectators in the stadium, but also in many parts of the African and Arabic world.

"It wasn't an easy game, but we did it very well. I can only say the same thing as after the last two games: It's a great success for the team and the whole country," said midfielder Bilal El Khannous. "The coach didn't say at half-time: Hopefully we can last another 45 minutes, but: There are only 45 minutes left to make history."

In a passionate defensive struggle, the Moroccans got through Youssef En-Nesyri's lead (42nd minute). In the madhouse, Morocco's fans celebrated every liberation. Substitute Walid Cheddira saw the yellow-red card in the hectic final phase (90.3).

Bitter evening for Ronaldo

Ronaldo, who came on shortly after the break, was also unable to equalize. "Now is not the time to talk about the future of Cristiano Ronaldo or Pepe. We are all very sad that we didn't win and didn't bring joy to our compatriots," said Ronaldo's longtime companion Pepe.

For Ronaldo, his fifth World Cup ended in bitter disappointment. The 37-year-old forward matched Kuwait's Badr al-Mutawa's world record with his 196th cap. But that shouldn't have meant much to him that evening. "Two people in particular were disappointed: Cristiano Ronaldo and I, of course it hits us. But that's part of the game," said Portugal coach Fernando Santos later. Ronaldo's late substitution? "I have no regrets," said the 78-year-old in a firm voice. "He came on when we felt it was necessary."

"Africa back on the football map"

Meanwhile, the Moroccans could hardly believe their luck and their fat entry into World Cup history. "Africa is back on the football map today," said Regragui. "We had the mentality, we used our capital. We knew we could make history for Africa. I'm very happy." Abdelhamid Sabiri, who trained as a footballer in Germany, added: "It's an indescribable feeling. Hopefully things will continue like they are today."

"We're going to recover and prepare for what's coming so we can face it with the same energy," said Morocco's once again strong Sevilla FC goalkeeper Bono. "All the players gave a brilliant performance. We had injuries but we put in an incredible performance." Beaming, he added at the press conference: "Pinch me, I think I'm dreaming."