Morocco plays Portugal in the quarterfinals of the Qatar 2022 tournament after defeating Spain on penalties in the previous round. We provide a preview of the match before it begins on Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, along with additional analysis from our supercomputer model.
Morocco vs Portugal Preview
After the Atlas Lions startled Spain and now have their sights set on tournament history, Bruno Fernandes and Portugal are aware of the potential for an upset by Morocco in their World Cup quarterfinal.
Yassine Bounou’s saves helped Walid Regragui’s team hold La Roja to a 0-0 draw before defeating them 3-0 on penalties.
In the group stage, Portugal had been efficient but unspectacular. However, in the round of 16, they let go and destroyed Switzerland 6-1 in one of the best performances by any team at Qatar 2022. Goncalo Ramos replaced the benched Cristiano Ronaldo and added a hat-trick.
Ramos’ performance, in which he became the first player to score a World Cup treble on his first start since 2002, was proof that Portugal was suddenly realizing their potential without the 37-year-old holding them back, as there was a perception that they had been holding back by the out-of-form and reviled Ronaldo.
However, Fernandes, who has assisted on five more goals than any of his teammates in this tournament, maintains that Portugal won’t take anything for granted.
It’s a challenging game, he informed the media. “Morocco has a great team.
We are aware of their abilities because they won against Spain and finished first in their group. As always, we want to play our best, but in order to do so, we must concentrate on ourselves and recognize what we must do to succeed.
The most crucial factor is that we play the game and do our part to prevail. We are aware that the game will be very challenging.
This is supported by the fact that Morocco has kept three clean sheets in its first four World Cup games, which is a record for an African team in a single World Cup.
The challenge Morocco faces, however, is enormous.
Morocco would become the first country from Africa to go to the World Cup semifinals if they defeat Portugal.
The last three African teams to get past the round of 16 all lost in the round of 8, including Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010).
Furthermore, only two of the previous 11 World Cup knockout matches between European and African countries saw CAF teams advance, and one of those was Morocco’s victory over Spain in a shootout.
Regragui is pleading for the support of the rest of the Arab world to help close the quality gap with Portugal. Morocco has been one of the best-supported countries in Qatar.
“We cannot succeed without the Moroccan people,” he declared. “They visited the hotel four days earlier to request tickets, and many of them traveled great distances to support us.
“We tell our fans that they are essential to helping us make history, especially during the quarterfinals. We also need Arab backers, including Algerians, Tunisians, and Africans, though we are aware that many nations are with us.
Players to Watch
Morocco: Yassine Bounou
In the shootout, he was the Atlas Lions’ hero, save two penalties while the other struck the post but he appeared to have it covered still.
Bounou, a trustworthy goalie who was nominated earlier this year for FIFA’s Yashin Trophy — the award given to the world’s finest keeper — is an important player for Morocco even outside of penalty shootouts.
Portugal: Goncalo Ramos
Will Fernando Santos stand by his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo? He should, based on how the team performed against Switzerland.
Ramos contributed to four goals against the Swiss, and his hat-trick in 74 minutes surpassed Ronaldo’s all-time record for knockout goals in World Cup competition (none in 531 minutes).
Morocco vs Portugal Prediction
Santos’ team has a 55.8% chance of making it to the semi-finals in the full 90 minutes, making Portugal the clear favorites in this match.
Morocco has an 18.8% chance of winning during regulation, a 25.4% chance of a tie and extra time, maybe followed by the dreaded penalty shootout.
The Atlas Lions are undoubtedly the underdogs, but they stand a solid chance of at least forcing overtime, which did not go too well for them the last time.
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