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We’re The World Cup’s Rocky Balboa – Morocco

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Playing a defensive, countering style at odds with the rest of the teams left in the World Cup, Morocco became the first African nation to reach the tournament’s semifinal round with a historic, 1-0 win against Portugal on Saturday.

“We are the Rocky Balboa of this World Cup,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said.

Unlike Rocky, though, Morocco haven’t been knocked down.

“We are the team that everyone loves in this World Cup because we are showing the world you can succeed even if you don’t have as much talent and money,” Regragui added.

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“It is no miracle. Many of you will say it is, especially in Europe, but we have beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal without conceding. We have made our people proud and our continent and so many people around, when you watch Rocky you want to support Rocky Balboa,”

Morocco coach said on history-making win over Portugal.

Morocco had never been beyond the round of 16 at the World Cup before Qatar.

Through five matches, the only goal Morocco has allowed was an own goal against Canada. In addition to the wins against Portugal, Belgium and Spain, Regragui’s side also kept a clean sheet against fellow semifinalist Croatia.

Considering the stakes, the performance against Portugal, who put six past Switzerland in the round of 16, might have been the best.

“Pinch me, I’m dreaming,” Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou said. “Morocco is ready to face anyone in the world. We have changed the mentality of the generation coming after us. They’ll know Moroccan players can create miracles.”

Playing with 73.2% of the possession, Portugal took 12 shots, but managed just three on goal, none of which really bothered Bounou.

All of this came with a backline that was missing two regular starters — Noussair Mazraoui (illness) and Nayef Aguerd (injury) — and lost center-back Romain Saiss to injury in the 57th minute.