Portugal’s quest to win the World Cup for the first time continues on Saturday as they meet Morocco in an exciting quarter-final tie kicking off at 3.00 pm.
While this World Cup featured the most round-of-16 goals since the reintroduction of this stage in 1986, the Atlas Lions’ goalless draw with Spain yielded the only tepid affair.
Morocco boss Walid Regragui won’t care about a lack of goals after his team crashed the former world champions out of the tournament to become the first Arabic nation to make it to the World Cup quarter-finals.
It’s worth noting that the Moroccans’ penalties win over Spain marked their third clean sheet in four matches in Qatar, with a lone exception of a 2-1 victory over Canada in the third group stage game.
Having become the first African manager to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, Regragui now aims to go one step further and make Morocco the first CAF nation to qualify for the tournament’s semi-finals.
Standing between them and a historic achievement is Portugal, who thumped Switzerland 6-1, courtesy of a breathtaking performance from World Cup debutant Goncalo Ramos.
Fernando Santos made a strange choice to leave his talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.
However, it paid off massively, as Ramos became the first player to notch up a hat-trick on his maiden full World Cup debut, inspiring the Selecao to their first World Cup knockout win in 16 years.
After each of the three previous African nations to have reached the World Cup quarter-finals failed to advance into the next stage, Morocco could make history in Doha.
Belief is growing among those back home, with the Atlas Lions heading into proceedings unbeaten in five consecutive World Cup matches (W2, D3), four of which have been under Regragui.
On top of that, the Moroccans have become the first African team to have gone three games without conceding in a single World Cup tournament and are one clean sheet away from equalling Nigeria’s outright record for most shutouts in the finals among CAF nations (seven).
Ramos’ heroics against Switzerland helped Portugal progress into the World Cup quarter-finals for the third time and first since 2006, with the Euro 2016 winners reaching the semi-finals on both previous occasions.
There’s another good omen for the Selecao here, as nine of the 11 previous World Cup knockout ties between African and European countries have been won by UEFA nations.
Santos’ men have scored the joint-most 12 goals across four fixtures in Qatar, while the abovementioned humiliation of the Swiss stands as only the second time they’ve netted 6+ goals at a major tournament.
Morocco vs Portugal Head-to-Head
Morocco and Portugal will lock horns at the World Cup for the third time. While the Atlas Lions dismantled the Selecao 3-1 in the 1986 group stages, the latter exacted vengeance with a 1-0 triumph in 2018.
Other than those two encounters, they share no previous history.
Morocco vs Portugal Team News
Regragui is still sweating over Nayef Aguerd’s fitness after his first-choice centre-back picked up a knock against Spain last time out.
Aguerd’s defensive teammate and captain Romain Saiss is on yellow cards, with the same going for Sofyan Amrabat and Abdelhamid Sabiri.
Santos cannot count on the likes of Nuno Mendes and Danilo Pereira, as both suffered injuries during the group stages.
Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Neves, Joao Felix and Ruben Dias will have to be careful not to pick up bookings, given that it would command a semi-final ban should Portugal eliminate Morocco.
Morocco vs Portugal Potential Line-ups
Morocco (4-3-3): Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Jawad El Yamiq, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui; Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Salem Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Portugal (4-3-3): Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Pepe, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro; Otavio, William Carvalho, Bernardo Silva; Bruno Fernandes, Goncalo Ramos, Joao Felix.
Morocco vs Portugal Prediction
There’s a feeling that if there’s a side that can penetrate Morocco’s water-tight backline, it’s Portugal.
With Bruno Fernandes orchestrating the play with quality and purpose and Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva offering support to Ramos, Santos boasts one of the fiercest frontlines in Qatar.
And if things don’t go their way, the Selecao can always call upon their all-time top-scorer, Ronaldo. He has proved countless times that he’s the man for the big occasion.
Despite Morocco’s stellar World Cup campaign, we anticipate their elimination in this round.
Morocco 1-2 Portugal
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