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Portugal blames Messi, referee for shock upset

Africa finally has a team in the World Cup semi-finals, and so does the Arab world.

Unfortunately, Portugal did not share the same sense of sentimentality that has captured the football world amid Morocco’s dream run to the semi-finals in Qatar.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored the winning goal in the 42nd minute to seal a 1-0 win to continue an improbable run that has generated an outpouring of pride in the Arab world, inspiring displays in Arab identity from fans in different countries.

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Yet, some Portugal players chose to focus on the performance of the all-Argentina officiating crew for the clash, even laying blame at the feet of Argentine star Lionel Messi.

Portugal players Pepe and Bruno Fernandes lashed out at the whistleblower claiming an Argentina should not have been officiating their match.

The match referee Facundo Tello, his two assistants and the video assistant referee were all from Argentina.

Argentina progressed by beating the Netherlands, with Lionel Messi vocal about the state of refereeing in the match, saying too much time had been added on. Portugal star Pepe said the comments had a direct impact on how the referees approached the clash against Morocco.

“It’s unacceptable for an Argentine referee to referee our game,” Pepe said on Portuguese television.

“After what happened yesterday, with (Lionel) Messi talking, all of Argentina talking, and the referee comes here.

“After what I saw today, they can give the title to Argentina now.

“What did we play in the second half? The goalkeeper dropped to the ground. There were only eight minutes of stoppage time. We worked hard and the referee (only added on) eight minutes.”

Bruno Fernandes also protested about the lack of injury time, with Portugal critical of the time-wasting tactics by the Moroccans.

He said referees from countries that are still competing at the World Cup should not be allowed to officiate in matches.

“We already know how it works … before the game we already knew what we were in for, and what kind of referee we would find,” said Fernandes.

“I don’t know if they’re going to give the trophy to Argentina.

“I don’t care, I’m going to say what I think and screw them. It’s very weird that a ref officiates us from a country still in the competition.

“Clearly they’ve tilted the field against us.

“Unfortunately, in these competitions, where there are no Portuguese referees, there are referees from teams that are still in the competition.

“It seems strange to me, to say the least, but I don’t want to get into that, because that’s not the only reason we lost.

“The referee gave two minutes of injury time in the first half and eight in the second. In this second half, the game was stopped, at minimum, for between 15 and 20 minutes.

“We knew that we would play against much more than just Morocco.”

While the players were furious and weren’t shy in expressing their disappointment, coach Fernando Santos said the officials did not have a big impact on the match.

“I don’t think so, I think he could have called for a foul on one or two (more) occasions but generally speaking I don’t think so,” said Santos.

“I think we could have done more and we didn’t do so. I don’t think we should blame the referee, it doesn’t make sense.”

Morocco delivered a semi final moment in the nearly 100-year history of football’s biggest tournament. After the final whistle, Morocco’s players tossed their coach in the air and waved their country’s flag as they linked arms in front of celebrating fans.

“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.”

Africa is also rejoicing at finally having a nation advancing to the levels typically only reached by European or South American teams. Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) all reached the quarterfinals but got no further.

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