2022 World Cup Preview: Morocco vs Portugal

For the fourth time in the history of the World Cup, the rest of Africa will rally their support behind an African country in the quarter-finals as Morocco take on Portugal at the Al Thumama Stadium. Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 all blew their chances of reaching the last four.

Just like the previous three African teams, the Atlas Lions may be tagged as the underdogs but their run at the ongoing World Cup is remarkable if not laudable. Morocco is the best defensive side alongside England with regard to goals conceded. They have allowed a single goal throughout all four games despite clashing with heavyweights like Spain and Belgium.

Following a 0-0 scoreline against Croatia in their first group game, Wahid Regragui’s men punished a lethargic Belgium team with a 2-0 win before wrapping up their group stage run with a 2-1 victory over Canada to win the group. In the round of 16, they held a dominant Spanish side to another scoreless draw with an engrossing series of action in 120 minutes and beyond.

Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was the eventual hero when the outcome had to be decided on penalty shootouts. The Sevilla shot-stopper saved two decisive penalties with one more striking the post which meant that Achraf Hakimi’s panenka sent La Roja packing.

Portugal will be much aware of their strong-willed opponents but would be seemingly confident going into this encounter. A Selecao recorded their biggest win since walloping Luxembourg 5-0 in the World Cup qualifiers over a year ago. Fernando Santos’ men edged Switzerland 6-1 in the round of 16. The icing on the cake for Portugal was a hat-trick from 21-year-old Concalo Ramos who was assigned to fill the boots of five-time Balon d’Or holder, Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Unlike Morocco, Portugal have conceded in three of their four games so far. They may however take solace in their magnificent scoring form, having scored 11, just one adrift of England who were the highest after the round of 16 games.

FORM GUIDE(LAST FIVE MATCHES)

MOROCCO’S FORM
6 December 2022             Morocco        0-0        Spain        Round of 16, 2022 World Cup

1 December 2022             Canada         1-2        Morocco     2022 World Cup Group F

27 November 2022           Belgium        0-2        Morocco     2022 World Cup Group F

23 November 2022           Morocco        0-0        Croatia      2022 World Cup Group F

17 November 2022           Morocco        3–0       Georgia      Friendly

PORTUGAL’S FORM

6 December 2022        Portugal          6-1        Switzerland    Round of 16, 2022 World Cup

2 December 2022        South Korea    2-1        Portugal         2022 World Cup Group H

28 November 2022      Portugal          2-0        Uruguay         2022 World Cup Group H

24 November 2022      Portugal          3-2        Ghana            2022 World Cup Group H

17 November 2022      Portugal          4-0        Nigeria           Friendly

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HEAD TO HEAD

11 June 1986 Portugal 1-3 Morocco FIFA World Cup

20 June 2018 Portugal 1-0 Morocco FIFA World Cup

TEAM NEWS

MOROCCO

Morocco had a number of injury concerns in their previous match when both Nayef Aguerd and Roman Saiss received knocks. Sofyan Amrabat endured a back injury but all three could be fit in time to face Portugal. Following Wahid Ragregui consistency with his starting eleven, it is likely, he sticks with the team that emerged victorious over Spain.

PREDICTED LINEUP

(4-3-3): Bounou; Hakimi, Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal

PORTUGAL

Portugal manager Fernando Santo took audacious decisions which yielded dividends in their 6-1 win over Switzerland. Cristiano Ronaldo was relegated to the bench to favour eventual hat-trick hero Goncalo Ramos. Joao Cancelo and Pereira also saw their place occupied by Rafael Guerreiro and Kepler Pepe. The gaffer is likely to maintain that lineup in a bid to oust the resilient Moroccans.

PREDICTED LINEUP

(4-3-3): Costa; Dalot, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Neves, Otavio, Silva, Fernandes, Felix; Ramos.