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Winners & Losers

Morocco inspire the world at Portugal's expense! Winners, losers & ratings as Cristiano Ronaldo's last dance ruined

20:27 GMT+3 10/12/2022
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Morocco continued to carry Africa to World Cup history while denying Portugal a spot in the semi-final.

Morocco's miracle men have moved on, and they're bringing the rest of Africa along for the ride.

The Atlas Lions have emerged as this World Cup's underdog story - and one of the best surprises at any tournament.

After shocking Spain, they've now taken down another powerhouse in Portugal with a 1-0 win, and with them, one of the greatest players of all-time, likely ending his chances of ever winning a World Cup.

Facing off with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, Morocco held firm once again, requiring just one superhero-like goal from their own striker.

Youssef En-Nesyri's goal was a carbon copy of goals scored by prime Ronaldo: a leaping, towering header that made everyone else around him seem like they were stuck in quicksand.

The actual Ronaldo, of course, watched that first-half goal from the bench, having been left out of the starting line-up yet again. He had been dropped in a 6-1 win over Switzerland last round, and Fernando Santos stuck with that call here. Rightfully so, some would say, except maybe Ronaldo.

CR7 came on for most of the second half to try and change a game that simply never changed. That's because Morocco didn't let it. They got their goal, they got their win and they have their semi-final berth. The first one for any African team in World Cup history.

They have inspired an entire continent. They have inspired the world.

  • Morocco fans Portugal World Cup

    The Winners

    Youssef En-Nesyri:

    Ronaldo-esque, wasn't it?

    Even the man himself was impressed as he sat on Portugal's bench. As Morocco celebrated in the corner, the camera immediately cut to Ronaldo, who could do nothing but nod his head at a goal that looked a lot like one he would score.

    En-Nesyri's leap was that impressive. The Moroccan striker simply flew, with the crowd behind him acting as rocket boosters to propel him up and over Diogo Costa and Ruben Neves.

    What a goal it was for Morocco, who you have to say deserved the half-time lead. And what a goal it was for En-Nesyri, who leapt right over Portugal's defence and right into World Cup lore.

    African football:

    The whistles dominated the night at Al Thumama Stadium, which Morocco fans turned into their latest home stadium. They've been doing it throughout the tournament: arriving, partying, celebrating and, ultimately, winning.

    Was this Casablanca or Qatar?

    Over the last few weeks, there's been no difference as all of African and Arabic football has come together to back the Atlas Lions. One walk around Doha would show you people from all corners carrying Moroccan flags.

    It's a region that's never seen a team go this far, and few would have bet it would be Morocco to carry the torch.

    Kids from all over the continent will remember this team and, ultimately, will be inspired by this team and what they've achieved so far.

    Morocco's defensive wall:

    One centre-back down? No problem. A second? Somehow, still no problem.

    No opposing player has scored a goal against Morocco in this tournament, with their only blemish being an unfortunate own goal. Other than that, this defence has been perfect, and they were again on Saturday.

    Even without Naif Aguerd due to injury, Morocco were just fine. Even when his partner, Romain Saiss, went out on a stretcher, there was no reason to worry. Jawad El Yamiq and Achraf Dari just stepped in and the level didn't drop in the slightest. Big compliments to those two, who did everything imaginable to keep Portugal off the board.

    And then there are the full-backs, Achraf Hakimi and Yahia Attiyat Allah. Both were targeted by Portugal throughout the first half, but neither put a foot wrong.

    Morocco's defence looks unbeatable. Can it carry them for one or, dare we say, two more games?

  • Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Morocco World Cup

    The Losers

    Cristiano Ronaldo:

    This was probably it. His last World Cup, his last big moment in the spotlight. Facing an uncertain future at club level, we may never see Ronaldo in a game of this magnitude again.

    He was largely helpless in this one, starting the first half on the bench before being largely ineffective in the second. He looked like Ronaldo and moved like Ronaldo, but he didn't quite play like Ronaldo.

    The Ronaldo the world knows would have done something to stop this. He would have risen above to get the miracle goal that saved the day. That Ronaldo, to be fair, also wouldn't be coming off the bench.

    But this is the real Ronaldo now, a player that's level has dropped off just enough for him to look mortal. Going forward, we'll see how Portugal handles his fall from immortality but there's a good chance he'll never get a game like this again.

    Goncalo Ramos:

    It should be said that everything went right for him last game. On Saturday, few things came off.

    He didn't do anything wrong per se, but that's just because we saw so little of him. The young forward was so totally ineffective that it made all too much sense for him to eventually make way in the 69th minute.

    Ramos finished with just one shot and a total of nine passes, showing how little he impacted the game. It wasn't fair to expect another hat-trick of him, but Portugal needed more than this.

    The world rushed to anoint Ramos after his performance last round, but this game showed that the young striker isn't all the way there, at least not yet.

    Diogo Costa:

    At least partially at fault for the goal and was a bit spotty on another sequence. It's safe to say Portugal's goalkeeper didn't look fully comfortable.

    The 23-year-old Costa is at the start of his career and, if all goes right, will play plenty more games for Portugal. He'll probably make another mistake or two as well, but mistakes at this level are different.

    One moment was all it took for Morocco to take down mighty Portugal, and Costa will want that moment back. He wasn't confident enough to come out and get the ball and, ultimately, Portugal paid for it.

  • Pepe Portugal Morocco World Cup

    Portugal Ratings: Defence

    Diogo Costa (4/10):

    Could have done so much better on the goal. Just didn't look confident.

    Raphael Guerriero (6/10):

    Relatively quiet 61 minutes. Replaced by Joao Cancelo as Portgual needed more from out wide.

    Ruben Dias (6/10):

    At least partially at fault for the goal as both he and Costa got totally caught out, but was steady other than that.

    Pepe (7/10):

    No blame for him in what was almost certainly his last World Cup game.

    Diogo Dalot (7/10):

    Was solid, but taken off as Santos threw everything into the attack.

  • Bernardo Silva Portugal Morocco World Cup

    Midfield

    Otavio (6/10):

    Passing could have been better, but he did create a few chances.

    Ruben Neves (5/10):

    Got absolutely roasted on one Morocco counter. Was the worst of the midfield starters.

    Bernardo Silva (5/10):

    Not the influential playmaker we've seen at Manchester City.

  • Joao Felix Portugal Morocco 2022

    Attack

    Joao Felix (6/10):

    Active but ineffective. Was largely locked down by Hakimi.

    Goncalo Ramos (5/10):

    Nothing doing in the attack. Couldn't build on his Round of 16 heroics.

    Bruno Fernandes (7/10):

    The most dangerous of the three, but obviously not dangerous enough.

  • Fernando Santos Portugal Morocco World Cup

    Subs & Manager

    Cristiano Ronaldo (5/10):

    Came on early in the second half as Portugal began to panic, but had none of his famous magic.

    Joao Cancelo (5/10):

    Did little to change the game even with Portugal sending waves of attack forward.

    Raphael Leao (5/10):

    There would not be a recreation of his exceptional round of 16 goal on this night. Didn't muster a shot in his 20+ minutes.

    Vitinha (6/10):

    Very smooth on the ball, but Portugal needed goals, not smoothness.

    Ricardo Horta (N/A):

    The last player tossed in late to provide an attacking spark.

    Fernando Santos (6/10):

    A no-win situation, wasn't it? He'll be defined by his Ronaldo situation, even if he handled it as well as he possibly could.