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Qatar 2022: Morocco beat Portugal to become first African side at semi-final

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Morocco became the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final and ended the hopes of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

Striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored the winning goal in the first half, leaping highest to beat goalkeeper Diogo Costa to the ball and heading in to spark pandemonium at Al Thumama Stadium.

The north African side’s supporters populated most of the venue and joyously celebrated their breakthrough moment on the global stage.

Ronaldo came off the bench in the 50th minute to equal the men’s all-time appearance record of 196 in international matches, but he could not drag his side back into the contest.

Morocco, who will face England or France in the last four, were happy to play on the counter and grabbed the opener just before the break when En-Nesyri headed in from Yahya Attiyat-Allah’s cross.

Portugal skipper Bruno Fernandes came agonisingly close to levelling just minutes later but a brilliant individual effort struck the crossbar.

Decimated by injuries, Morocco sat back for the majority of the second half and Yassine Bounou brilliantly tipped over Joao Felix’s drive – the closest they came to an equalizer.

Morocco striker Walid Cheddira was sent off for a second yellow card in eight minutes of additional time but Portugal could not find the equaliser as their last-four hopes were dashed.

Magnificent Moroccans make history

Three African sides had previously reached this stage of the World Cup but none had progressed any further. Until now.

The marvellous Moroccan players and fans rejoiced as En-Nesyri’s header on 42 minutes proved to be the pivotal moment.

Fans whistled and jeered every pass the Portuguese players made and then the rowdiest section behind the goal seemed to suck the ball into the net.

Walid Regragui’s side were missing West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd, Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui and lost captain Romain Saiss to injury early in the second period.

But they defended resolutely and frustrated Portugal to keep their seventh clean sheet in eight games under their boss and have conceded just once in this tournament.

Morocco are a tough proposition and buoyed on by a partisan crowd in Doha, they will present a difficult challenge to whoever they face in the last four on Wednesday.

Goalkeeper Bounou, earning his 50th cap, pushed away a header from Felix early on and a deflected strike flew narrowly over.

Morocco had carved out the better opportunities on the break but En-Nesyri sent two free headers off target and Sofiane Boufal’s curler was straight at costa.

In his desperation for an equaliser, Fernando Santos sent on Ronaldo early in the second half but the 37-year-old – who equalled Kuwait striker Bader Al-Mutawa’s international caps record – found it difficult to make any impact.

Having seen rival Lionel Messi reach the semi-finals on Friday, Ronaldo could not do the same with his side on what is likely to be his final World Cup appearance, trudging down the tunnel in tears at full-time as his dream was over.

Source: myjoyonline

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Ghana coach Otto Addo: We will not relax against CAR in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers

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They are presently ranked third in Group I, after leaders Madagascar and the Comoros. Despite the remarkable win over Mali's favoured Eagles, Addo insisted that the squad cannot afford to be complacent. His sentiments mirrored those of Mohammed Kudus. "One thing is certain: the game will be extremely challenging. "For everyone who thinks it'll be easy, we hope it is, but it's a very difficult game," Addo told reporters on Sunday. "We can't relax now," said the former Borussia Dortmund head coach. The match is scheduled to start at 19:00 GMT.

Otto Addo, Black Stars coach, has advised his players to be focused and not take their next encounter against the Central African Republic (CAR) lightly.

Ghana will face CAR on Monday, June 10, at the Baba Yara Stadium in the fourth of four matchdays in the 2026 World Cup qualification.

The Black Stars came into this game off a 2-1 victory against Mali in Bamako, raising their total to six points in three games.

They are presently ranked third in Group I, after leaders Madagascar and the Comoros.

Despite the remarkable win over Mali’s favoured Eagles, Addo insisted that the squad cannot afford to be complacent. His sentiments mirrored those of Mohammed Kudus.

“One thing is certain: the game will be extremely challenging. “For everyone who thinks it’ll be easy, we hope it is, but it’s a very difficult game,” Addo told reporters on Sunday.

“We can’t relax now,” said the former Borussia Dortmund head coach.

The match is scheduled to start at 19:00 GMT.

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2026 WCQ: Otto Addo expects a tight game against CAR

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"This is going to be really difficult. "For everyone who thinks we can just play them, I don't believe it will happen," remarked the former Borussia Dortmund coach. "They're performing well, especially in attacking transitions. They're quite dangerous; they demonstrated that in the 1-1 draw with Mali," he continued. The Black Stars are presently third in Group I, with six points. A victory would greatly improve their prospects of qualifying for the World Cup.

Ghana coach Otto Addo expects a tough encounter against the Central African Republic (CAR) in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The Black Stars will meet CAR in the fourth round of matches on Monday at Baba Yara Stadium, with kickoff at 19:00 GMT.

Reflecting on their recent comeback win over Mali in Bamako during the third round, Addo emphasised the importance of the forthcoming encounter against CAR.

“This is going to be really difficult. “For everyone who thinks we can just play them, I don’t believe it will happen,” remarked the former Borussia Dortmund coach.

“They’re performing well, especially in attacking transitions. They’re quite dangerous; they demonstrated that in the 1-1 draw with Mali,” he continued.

The Black Stars are presently third in Group I, with six points. A victory would greatly improve their prospects of qualifying for the World Cup.

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Mohammed Kudus: Qualifying for the 2026 World Cup is the ultimate objective

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Ghana striker Mohammed Kudus has stated that the Black Stars are aiming to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

The squad recently returned to form, defeating Mali 2-1 in Bamako on their third matchday, due to second-half goals from Ernest Nuamah and Jordan Ayew.

With this victory, Ghana is presently third in Group I with six points.

Ahead of their matchday four against the Central African Republic on Monday at the Baba Yara Stadium, Kudus, who plays for West Ham United, emphasised that the Black Stars’ primary goal is to qualify for the coveted event in 2026.

“The belief has always existed; that we all want to go to the World Cup. “That is our ultimate goal, regardless of how we achieve it,” Kudus told the press on Sunday.

“Our coach has his strategies, but sometimes the game gets tougher. “We just have to do our best and get the results,” he said.

Kudus is likely to play an important part for Ghana when they face the Central African Republic in this critical qualifier.

The highly anticipated encounter is due to begin at 19:00 GMT.

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