The Cinderella story for Morocco continued Saturday after the African nation pulled off a shocking upset win over Portugal.
The victory was the nation’s second straight over an Iberian country after Morocco defeated Spain in penalties in the Round of 16. It also continued Morocco’s run over defeating top European powers. Morocco beat Belgium, 2-0, in the group stage, and it held Croatia, who also made the semifinals, to a 0-0 draw.
Morocco only has conceded one goal in the World Cup, which is a testament to manager Walid Regragui’s system and the play of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. The World Cup semifinal berth is the first for any African and Arab nation in the tournament’s history, and it’s the third time a country outside of Europe or South America made the semifinals — the first time since South Korea in 2002.
Portugal was the betting favorite heading into the match at -150. Morocco were +475 underdogs, and it garnered 22% of bets and 21% of handle at DraftKings Sportsbook, according to communications associate Cassie Buontempo. Morocco had +260 odds to advance to the semifinals, and it had 27% of bets and 26% of handle.
The splits were slightly different at BetMGM. Morocco were +450 to win the match in regulation in a three-way wager. The result had 38% of tickets and 15% handle, according to data specialist Drew O’Dell. For the African nation to advance, the odds were at +220 had earned 61% of tickets and 43% of handle.
Some sportsbooks had Morocco to advance to the semifinals at +6000, according to Bleacher Report. This means a $100 bet would have cashed $6,100.
Morocco had +25000 odds to win the World Cup before the tournament began. This means a $100 bet would pay out $25,100 — only 1.8% of tickets and 0.9% of handle were on the wager at BetMGM, according to data analyst John Ewing. The long-shot odds are the longest odds for a team to make the semifinals in 40 years, according to Action Network via Sports Odds History.
It was an incredible win for Morocco, and it could be an even bigger win for the few bettors who believed in the team.