In pictures: Agony and ecstasy in Qatar as Morocco crush Portugal World Cup dream

There will be no World Cup title for Cristiano Ronaldo in what was likely his last appearance at football’s biggest tournament

By Web Desk

Published: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 11:03 PM

Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal was dealt with a harsh blow on Saturday as they were eliminated from the World Cup after Morocco crushed their World Cup dream in the quarter-finals.

Portugal will see it as a missed opportunity against the lowest-ranked side left in the tournament and a disappointing curtain call for the 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, who walked down the tunnel at the end of the game in tears.

After being on the bench at the start for the second straight match, Ronaldo couldn’t help Portugal come back against Morocco. Despite playing 40 minutes in the game, he only managed to amass 10 touches and just one shot.

Ronaldo missed a chance late on as his right-footed effort was drilled low into goalkeeper Yassine Bounou's hands among a string of chances late on from his team-mates including a header from Pepe.

In contrast, Moroccans exploded in joy as their team became the first from any African country to reach a World Cup semi-final. Their fans are seen filling the stadium with a deafening roar and unleashing cheering, crying, dancing and singing on the streets back home.

Youssef En-Nesyri leapt high in the air to head home the game’s only goal just before half-time at the Al-Thumama Stadium to strike a significant blow against football’s established order and book a semi-final on Wednesday against either England or France, who meet later on Saturday.

This was also one of Morocco's better performances in Qatar, full of determined defending and canny counters, keeping at bay a collection of world stars despite losing key defender Nayef Aguerd to injury before the match and his back four partner and captain Romain Saiss early in the second half.

Morocco was again noisily encouraged by the majority of the 44,198-strong crowd.

As Morocco's defender Jawad El Yamiq circled the pitch with a flag draped around his shoulders, one fan stood motionless, looking out over the pitch with his hands over his mouth as if unable to take in the scale of the win.

Tonight, Morocco wrote World Cup history as the first African and Arab country to reach the tournament's semi-finals, continuing their surprise run in Qatar. And as they progress to the semi-finals to meet another giant football nation, the message is loud - giant killer Atlas Lions aren't done yet.

Football is a beautiful game, it is the greatest religion in the world, with more followers than any other. To the conquerors of the game, it gives the greatest joy and an emotional upheaval like none other.

And those that lose the 90-minute battle carry the agony of that defeat for the rest of their lives.

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