Montreal explodes as Morocco beats Portugal to secure historic World Cup semi-final berth

On Saturday afternoon, Jean-Talon Avenue exploded with uncontrollable joy as Moroccan fans danced, cheered and cried for their team’s historic World Cup quarter-final victory.

Morocco beat Portugal 1-0, making them the first African team to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals, the world’s biggest football tournament. On Saturday, when the referee’s final whistle blew, cafes and apartments filled to celebrate.

“History is being made. You see the joy on everyone’s faces… It says a lot about the pride this team has brought us,” said Moroccan-born Montrealer Noureddine Douay.

“We played for Africa, we played for the Arab world.”

Red and green smoke passed through the Petit Maghreb district, the heart of Montreal’s sizable Moroccan and North African community. The city is home to more than 50,000 Moroccan immigrants and tens of thousands of people connected to the country.

“They deserved to win,” said Moroccan-born Bouchaib Kaebori, as fireworks exploded between festivities. He wore a draped Moroccan flag over his shoulders as a visible sign of pride for his homeland.

“As Moroccan-Canadians we are really proud. We won against some of the biggest teams in the world: Belgium, Portugal today, even Spain.”

Dozens of Moroccan flags fluttered in the wind above the crowd. But Morocco’s green star was joined by the Algerian crescent and the Palestinian flag. Moroccan fans say they feel the entire Arab world supports the team.

Green and red smoke rose above Montreal as Moroccan fans cheered and cheered for their team’s victory in the World Cup quarterfinals. (Jay Turnbull/CBC Montreal)

“No one believed us… The trophy is for us this year, no doubt,” Zizou Lina told CBC at Petit Maghreb.

“We are proud to be Moroccan.”

The crowd sang and danced outside Café Sable d’or, located on Avenue Jean-Talon, just east of Saint-Michel Metro station, in the heart of the Petit Maghreb neighborhood.

The neighborhood had a bubbling sense of anticipation before Saturday morning’s showdown with Portugal. But earlier this week, Moroccan Montrealers said they were confident in their team’s success.

“At first I really thought Brazil would win, but when we got to the quarterfinals, I realized we could really go too far,” said Maryam Beghdali after the big game.

“I’m really happy for us. It’s the first time Morocco has gone this far at the World Cup, so I’m really excited to see if we can make it to the final. I’ll win it.”

Morocco will play against France on Wednesday to determine who will reach the final.

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