With two commendable but uninspiring 0-0 draws against Poland and England under their belt, Morocco had seemingly already exceeded expectations at Mexico 86 ahead of their final group fixture.
Sure, a win against Portugal would see them win the group but surely that was a mere mathematical permutation. The Euro 1984 semi-finalists, having beaten England 1-0 before losing by the same score to Poland, were expected to beat the African nation and progress to the round of 16.
That was to ignore the strides that Morocco and African football I general had made recent years, not to mention the lessons of Tunisia and Algeria at the two previous World Cups.
Poor Portugal did not know what hit them in Guadalajara.
Jose Faria’s team were simply unstoppable as they raced into a two-goal lead thanks to brilliant finishes by Abderrazak Khairi after 19 and 26 minutes.
Portugal could not have expected the intensity and quality that Morocco – driven on by Aziz Bouderbala, Mohammed Timoumi and Abdelkrim Merry, or “Krimau” – had conjured seemingly out of the thin Mexican air. In the second half, things got more embarrassing for Jose Torres’s team.
Just after the hour mark, Krimau mad it 3-0 with a goal of pure impudence.
“I saw the keeper come out of his goal, and I scored,” Krimau said of his lobbed finish in later years. “It was beautiful and we planned it that way. It started from our defence, went up to the midfield and then to the strikers. I can’t forget the image because the whole move involved 10 passes and resulted in our third goal.
Portugal pulled a goal back with 10 minutes but it was all too late. They were heading home.
Morocco 3-1 win meant they topped their group to become the first Arab or African nation to qualify to the knock-out stages of a World Cup.
The mighty West Germans were next up next in the round of 16, but Morocco’s heroes had already secured their places in the history books, not to mention the hearts of their adoring countrymen.