Africa gets its first semifinals spot with Morocco World Cup win



When the whistle blew at the end of Morocco’s match against Portugal in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, marking the North African country’s victory, cheers resounded across the African continent. The 1-0 win gave Morocco a coveted spot in the World Cup semifinals — the first time a team from Africa has ever reached that stage of the tournament.

“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” Kwabena Yeboah, a Ghanaian sports commentator with Ghana’s public broadcaster, GTV, shouted on live television as he high-fived his panelists, unable to contain his joy.

Indestructible Morocco, the World Cup’s darling, moves on to the semis

“Congratulations to our African brothers,” GTV Sports tweeted, along with the clip.

Morocco will face France on Wednesday — with a colonial past and modern migration stories as a backdrop. The winner of that game secures a spot in the final on Dec. 18.

Morocco has had a stunning World Cup run, beating several European powerhouses: Belgium, Spain and now Portugal. Its success has stirred pride and rare unity across the Arab world, evoking, for some, an earlier era of Pan-Arab nationalism.

But Morocco is also an African country — and its soccer fortunes, African fans say, belong to the whole continent, too. From Ghana to Kenya to Tunisia, Egypt and Somalia, soccer fans have rested their hopes on Morocco.

Play by play: Morocco stuns Portugal with 1-0 win

The last three African teams to reach the World Cup quarterfinals lost their matches, all in nail-biter endings: Cameroon went down, 3-2, to England in 1990; Senegal, 1-0, to Turkey in 2002; and Ghana on penalties to Uruguay in 2010. But on Saturday, with a goal from Youssef En-Nesyri in the 42nd minute, Morocco delivered the feat that had eluded those teams before it: a quarterfinals win that made history.

“You have truly made us proud #Morocco,” former president of Somalia Mohamed Farmaajo tweeted. “This is a testimony that Africa is rising & we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Samuel Eto’o, president of Cameroon’s soccer association, wrote, “The entire continent is rooting for you.”

Nationalism abounds at the World Cup. Throughout the tournament in Qatar, though, Morocco head coach Walid Regragui has cast his team as representative of all of Africa.

“I’m not here to be a politician, we represent Morocco and obviously Morocco and Moroccans are my priority,” the French-born former Moroccan national team player told reporters earlier in the tournament. “But obviously, we’re also African like Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Tunisia, so we hope to fly the flag of African football high.”

For North Africans, the victory was extra sweet. Cars honked on the streets of Casablanca in celebration. Cheers could be heard throughout downtown Cairo, where fans crowded into cafes and drivers beeped in celebration. In Tunis, crowds thronged in front of the National Theater on the Tunisian capital’s main thoroughfare, lighting flares and waving flags. In Tripoli, Libya, teenagers gathered in a public square had watched the match with bated breath. After Morocco’s win, they hoisted Moroccan and Libyan flags with elated grins.

On social media, some fans began recirculating pop star Shakira’s theme song for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).”

Shakira herself weighed in with a tweet: “This time for Africa!!”

“We can dream, why shouldn’t we dream about winning the World Cup?” Regragui, the Moroccan coach, told reporters on Saturday.

Chuck Culpepper in Doha, Qatar, and Siobhán O’Grady in Cairo contributed to this report.

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