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Player ratings as Atlas Lions reach first World Cup semi-final

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Morocco became the first African side in history to reach a World Cup semi-final after an incredible but deserved 1-0 win against Portugal.

The Atlas Lions were good value for a half-time lead and defended for their lives in the second 45 to stun the Selecao and advance on a historic day for the North African nation.

Portugal came close to a fifth-minute opener when a Bruno Fernandes free-kick was met by the diving head of Joao Felix, but Yassine Bounou managed to get down low and push the effort to one side.

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The Atlas Lions immediately roared back in the face of this early pressure with a swift counter attack led by Yahia Attiyat Allah, who managed to win a corner off of the retreating Diogo Dalot. Youssef En-Nesyri rose highest from the resulting corner, but was unable to keep his free header down and the Selecao got away with some poor defending.

On the half-hour mark, a half-volley from Felix took a wicked deflection off the back of Jawad El Yamiq, and Bounou had to gratefully watch on as the ball whistled just over the bar.

At the other end, Morocco spurned a great chance to take the lead. Attiyat Allah’s clever cutback found an open Selim Amallah, who couldn’t quite get a clean contact on a half-volley of his own.

Another Portugal opening came and went thanks to Raphael Guerreiro finding Felix, again firing over the top as his frustrating first half continued.

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Morocco broke the deadlock shortly before the break. A high cross from Attiyat Allah managed to catch Ruben Dias, Guerreiro and goalkeeper Diogo Costa cold, with En-Nesyri racing in and leaping high ahead of the Porto stopper to head home.

Fernandes nearly brought Portugal level in the final minute of the first half with a Marco van Basten-style strike, and he was unfortunate to see his mesmeric shot bounce back off the bar.

There was still time for Morocco to try and double their advantage before the half-time whistle, with Amallah leading a counter attack and teeing up Attiyat Allah, but his tumbling shot could only find the side-netting.

Just after the interval, Morocco came within inches of adding a well-earned second. Hakim Ziyech’s whipped free-kick evaded several bodies and was spilled by Costa, rebounding the ball back onto El Yamiq, who knew little of it and the ball bounced narrowly wide.

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Fernando Santos turned to Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo to try and turn it around. The former managed to work his way up field and cross for Goncalo Ramos soon after coming on, but the 21-year-old’s header was wayward.

Fernandes was next up to try his luck, blasting over from the edge of the 18-yard box, while Bernardo Silva was just unable to meet an intricate free-kick routine which reached him 12 yards from goal.

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Roughly 80 minutes after their first shot on target, Portugal notched a second, with Felix again denied by Bounou – this time the Sevilla stopper rising to meet a top-corner bound thunderbolt.

Portugal desperately appealed for a penalty for a handball against El Yamiq inside the penalty area in the final five minutes, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Walid Cheddira and Ronaldo both missed huge chances from close range as the game entered eight minutes of stoppage time, and the former was then given his marching orders for two bookings in quick succession.

In the 96th minute and the world watching on, Zakaria Aboukhlal raced through on goal in an attempt to seal the victory, but his attempted dink over Costa was weak and easily stopped.

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With what may well have been his final World Cup action, Pepe headed a cross from Rafael Leao just wide of the post, and Morocco survived to claim arguably their greatest ever footballing achievement.

Youssef En-Nesyri

The hero / Fantasista/GettyImages

GK: Yassine Bounou – 8/10 – Commanded his box excellently and came up with some huge stops.

RB: Achraf Hakimi – 7/10 – A full-back renowned for his attacking, Hakimi showed off his defensive game with an excellently disciplined display.

CB: Jawad El Yamiq – 8/10 – Nayef Aguerd’s injury looked to be a hammer blow to Morocco’s chances, but El Yamiq stepped in and stepped up.

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CB: Romain Saiss – 7/10 – Dug in deep and fought on for just under an hour after tweaking his hamstring in the last 16.

LB: Yahia Attiyat Allah – 9/10 – A near-perfect performance at both ends of the pitch, stretching the play in attack and locking up Portugal’s right side.

CM: Sofyan Amrabat – 7/10 – Remained calm and composed in a midfield battle that Morocco willingly gave up after the hour mark.

CM: Azzedine Ounahi – 8/10 – It’s easy to see why Luis Enrique was so impressed by the Angers midfielder. Displayed magic in his boots and twinkle in his toes.

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CM: Selim Amallah – 8/10 – Flittered between the lines and was often leading counter attacks, dancing his way past his Portugal counterparts.

RW: Hakim Ziyech – 7/10 – Showed spurts of his creative genius but not for sustained periods, though again the gameplan made this understandable.

CF: Youssef En-Nesyri – 8/10 – Continually put himself about and made life tough for Portugal’s defenders. The leap for his goal seemed impossibly high. Now the first Moroccan player to score three goals at a World Cup.

LW: Sofiane Boufal – 7/10 – Like Ziyech, we only saw glimpses of brilliance.

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Substitutes

Achraf Dari (57′ for Saiss) – 7/10 – Had big shoes to fill following Saiss’ injury but was magnificent.

Walid Cheddira (65′ for Amallah) – 2/10

Badr Banoune (65′ for En-Nesyri) – 6/10

Zakaria Aboukhlal (82′ for Ziyech) – 5/10

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Yahya Jabrane (82′ for Boufal) – 5/10

Manager

Walid Regragui – 9/10 – Even in the face of injuries and key men needing to be replaced, Morocco did not wilt under the Portuguese pressure. Regragui will go down in history as an African football legend.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal’s run is over / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

GK: Diogo Costa – 3/10 – Came and missed the telling cross which settled the tie.

RB: Diogo Dalot – 5/10 – Fought hard but was lacking in quality today. Subbed late on with an injury.

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CB: Pepe – 5/10 – Portugal looked ropey defending counter attacks but that wasn’t due to Pepe or his dogged willingness.

CB: Ruben Dias – 4/10 – Weak in the challenge and lost out to En-Nesyri at the vital moment.

LB: Raphael Guerreiro – 4/10 – Loose touches further up the field and lost the run of En-Nesyri at the other. Hooked just after half-time.

CM: Ruben Neves – 5/10 – Was on the ball a lot due to Morocco’s desire to sit in deep and break. He was unable to suitably pick the lock.

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CM: Otavio – 5/10 – Didn’t enjoy the same freedom to run forward through the defence as he had against Switzerland.

CM: Bernardo Silva – 4/10 – Shied away from possession and provided nearly nothing of note.

RW: Bruno Fernandes – 5/10 – Threw everything he had at Portugal but his ambitious crosses, passes and shots were mistimed.

CF: Goncalo Ramos – 5/10 – Much, much quieter than his blockbuster display against Switzerland. The ball didn’t quite stick to him the same way.

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LW: Joao Felix – 6/10 – The man often on the end of Portugal’s early chances, but was usually restricted to shots from distance.

Substitutes

Cristiano Ronaldo (51′ for Neves) – 4/10 – Got into decent positions but wasn’t found enough. When he did find space, he fluffed his lines.

Joao Cancelo (51′ for Guerreiro) – 5/10

Rafael Leao (69′ for Ramos) – 4/10

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Vitinha (69′ for Otavio) – 4/10

Ricardo Horta (79′ for Dalot) – 4/10

Manager

Fernando Santos – 4/10 – From hero to zero. Portugal were the complete inverse of the swashbuckling side that so easily dumped Switzerland out.

Player of the Match – Yahia Attiyat Allah



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EPL

Cody Gakpo reflects on first month at Liverpool

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Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo has opened up on his first month on the books at Anfield, admitting he is still getting used to Jurgen Klopp’s tactics.

The Dutchman was wanted by a number of elite sides, with Manchester United expected to win the race for his signature, but it was Liverpool who snuck in and agreed to pay an initial £35m to bring Gakpo to England.

The 23-year-old, who made his name as a left winger but has spent time as a striker at Liverpool, is yet to score after four appearances for his new side, but he told club media that is it just a matter of getting to grips with his new surroundings

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“My feeling, personally, is everyone in the team has so much quality,” he said. “That is what I see in training and in phases in the games.

“It is also a part of football, that sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to. We just have to keep improving, working hard, and the quality will come out. Then, you’re going to see the real Liverpool.”

He continued: “From a football perspective, it’s a new environment on the pitch, with new players and a new team. I can tell it’s a really great group. Every day I am looking forward to working with them, to train hard and to play the games. I am trying to adapt as quickly as possible, to improve every day and in the end show the best version of myself.

“Off the pitch, to be honest, I haven’t been in the city so many times yet. Most of the time I have been in the hotel. I am moving this week, actually. That’s also something I’m looking forward to.”

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Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Gakpo also confessed that he is still trying to adapt to his new role in Liverpool’s team.

“It is a little bit different to what I’m used to,” the Dutchman admitted. “Normally, I have played on the left for almost the past three years.

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“It’s something I can improve, playing in the striker role, and I want to show my quality there. It’s a great position and playing there makes me more complete as a technical player.





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Fulham launch bid Fluminense midfielder Andre

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Fulham have made a bid to sign Fluminense midfielder Andre, 90min understands.

The 21-year-old has quickly established himself as one of Fluminense’s top players and a number of sides across Europe have expressed an interest in luring him away from his homeland in 2023.

Sources have confirmed to 90min that Fulham have approached Fluminense to try and thrash out a deal, but the Brazilian side are reluctant to part ways with their star player during the 2023 campaign.

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Andre, who has been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool, has spoken out about the interest and insisted his focus remains solely on his current employers.

“Obviously, I’m focused and very happy,” Andre said recently. “I just renewed my contract until 2026.

“It’s normal to get offers, but I’m focused here on Fluminense and having an excellent season.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

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If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Andre’s agent, Carlos Leite, also took to Instagram to confirm that the 21-year-old had agreed to remain with Fluminense until the end of the current campaign, which runs over the entire calendar year.

“Thanks to the great work carried out, Andre entered the radars of some of the biggest European clubs and, with that, he has received several enquiries and some official proposals,” Leite wrote.

“However, the player and Fluminense, through president Mario Bittencourt, sealed an agreement for the midfielder to remain at the club at this time, with all the dedication and commitment, always seeking the best for Fluminense in all competitions.”

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Sporting CP manager makes Pedro Porro admission as Tottenham talks continue

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Sporting CP manager Ruben Amorim has warned Tottenham that he will not take right-back Pedro Porro out of his starting lineup until a transfer has been 100% agreed.

90min understands Tottenham are confident they will get a deal over the line for the 23-year-old eventually, but Sporting’s reluctance to budge from their asking price of Porro’s €45m release clause has led to some lengthy negotiations which are not yet over.

And while Porro is still contracted to Sporting, Amorim will not hesitate to use the right-back and risk an injury which could see the entire move collapse.

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“Porro does not leave before the game,” Amorim said ahead of Saturday’s Allianz Cup final against Porto. “Clubs have to come first, and as far as I know, a player who is able to play and is signed up by a club, he has to go to games.

“I realise that [negotiations] involve a lot of players’ minds, but the indication I have is that Porro is fit, and the most important thing for me, as a manager, is that if he wasn’t there, there would be someone else. The game cannot be played with just one player. Porro is fit. Whatever has to happen will happen, we are prepared for all scenarios.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Amorim continued: “Is this Porro’s last game at the club? I don’t know. There are a few days left until February 1, then everyone will know if Porro stays or leaves.

“Porro hasn’t left yet. We are scouting, but not everything is easy, you’re in a real hurry to send Porro away!”

Spurs have repeatedly tried to lower Sporting’s asking price for Porro by including at least one player in the deal, but the Portuguese side have been clear about their determination to hold out for the right-back’s release clause – in full.





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