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PREVIEW: Morocco looks for another upset against a deadly Portugal side

PREVIEW: Morocco looks for another upset against a deadly Portugal side

After their incredible win against Spain, Morocco will come face to face with a highly motivated Portugal side on Saturday afternoon in the quarter-finals of the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup.

The Atlas Lions stunned the world by knocking out the 2010 World Champions 3-0 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes of football. The Atlas Lions will be targeting to make history as the first African side to qualify for the semi-finals.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui said his plan was to let Spain have the ball after his side’s dramatic penalty shootout win in their World Cup last-16 match on Tuesday.

Victory took the African side into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, trumping their performance in 1986, when they reached the last.

Spain dominated possession during the match but Morocco’s staunch defence largely kept them at bay and limited clear-cut chances.

Portugal were frighteningly ruthless going forward against the Swiss but it was an attacking display out of keeping with their tournament thus far – Portugal scored as many goals against Switzerland as they had mustered across the entire group stage.

Fernando Santos explained Ronaldo’s absence by reasoning that he “wanted a team that played with a lot of fluidity.” The European Championship winner certainly got that in a display which could cause this revered – but possibly weakened – Morocco rearguard plenty of problems

The Al Thumama Stadium in Doha will be the battle ground for these two nations.

Portugal and Morocco have only met on two previous occasions – both at the World Cup. On 11 June 1986, Morocco claimed a stunning 3-1 victory, while Portugal got revenge on 20 June 2018 with a fourth-minute goal from… yes, you guessed it, Ronaldo.

Players to Watch

Morocco – Yassine Bounou

Goalkeepers rarely get praise for team wins but Yassine Bounou deserves all the plaudits having been the hero against Spain after saving three penalties in the shootout. Morocco have only conceded once at this World Cup and his good reading of the game that has come into play play. Only two nations at the World Cup have conceded fewer shots on target than miserly Morocco.

Portugal – Gonçalo Ramos

Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland that sent Fernando Santos’ side to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The 21 year-old had big shoes to fill when he made his first World Cup start relegating Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench. Ramos took the opportunity with both hands and struck three times. He is definitely one player to watch come Saturday.

 Morocco predicted lineup vs Portugal

Morocco Starting 11 (4-3-3): Bounou; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Benoun, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal.
Bench: Munir, Tagnaouti, Dari, Allah, Jabrane, Sabiri, El Khannouss, Abde, Zaroury, Aboukhlal, Cheddira, Hamdallah.

Portugal Predicted lineup vs Morocco

Portugal Starting 11 (4-3-3): Costa; Dalot, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Otavio, Carvalho, Bernardo; Fernandes, Ramos, Felix.
Bench: Patricio, Sa, Antonio Silva, Cancelo, Neves, Palhinha, Nunes, Vitinha, Mario, Horta, Leao, Ronaldo, Andre Silva.

An African football Journalist with a passion for the beautiful game. He is also a freelance Sports Photographer and Graphic designer.

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