Morocco aiming to become first African nation in World Cup semi-final.Portugal won both previous quarter-final ties.European side thumped Switzerland in last-16 after Morocco beat Spain.
Morocco usurped Japan as the surprise package of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 when they defeated 2010 winners Spain on penalties in the Round of 16.
Walid Regragui’s team are the fourth African nation to reach a World Cup quarter-final and will try to go one better than Cameroon in 1990, Senegal 12 years later and the Ghana team of 2010 by advancing to the last four. Coach Regragui’s side have been near impenetrable in the tournament, conceding only once – and that a consolation for Canada when Morocco won 2-1 to secure progress from the group stage.
Portugal were quarter-finalists in 1966 and 2006 but this is their first venture beyond the last 16 in four World Cups. Fernando Santos’s team exploded into life with an irrepressible performance to overwhelm Switzerland in their first knockout match. They successfully navigated a tricky group, beating Ghana and Uruguay to qualify before losing the closing game, against South Korea.
Coach Fernando Santos must choose whether to stick with the team that began the drubbing of Switzerland or reintroduce Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. Joao Cancelo was also left out of the last-16 fixture in favour of Diogo Dalot, while Cancelo’s Manchester City teammate Ruben Dias is reportedly managing a minor injury. The noises from the Portugal camp are intimating Santos will opt for an unchanged starting XI.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) December 8, 2022
Morocco coach Regragui has issues in defence. Nayef Aguerd of West Ham was forced off against Spain due to a muscle injury and is in a race against time to feature, while fellow centre-half Romain Saiss finished the last-16 tie with heavy strapping on his thigh.
— Équipe du Maroc (@EnMaroc) December 7, 2022
Possible starting XIs:
Morocco: Bono; Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss, Jawad El Yamiq, Noussair Mazraoui; Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahi, Selim Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Portugal: Diogo Costa; Diogo Dalot, Rúben Dias, Pepe, Raphaël Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Otávio, Bernardo Silva; Bruno Fernandes, Gonçalo Ramos, João Félix.
Head to head :
The teams’ two previous meetings both occurred at World Cups. The Africans stunned Portugal 3-1 in the final group match at Mexico 1986, securing progress to the last 16 for the first time – and only time prior to the current edition – and eliminating the Europeans in the process.
Portugal achieved a measure of redemption in Russia four years ago when Ronaldo scored the only goal of another group-stage clash.
With his hat-trick against Switzerland, his first goals in the World Cup, young striker Goncalo Ramos put himself in the running for the adidas Golden Boot award. He is two goals behind current leading scorer Kylian Mbappe.
Bruno Fernandes is in a battle with English forward Harry Kane as the best assister at the World Cup. Both players have laid on three goals.
Morocco have the tournament’s most miserly defence after conceding only one goal in four matches.
This is Morocco’s sixth World Cup. Among African nations, only Cameroon have more tournament appearances (eight).
Portugal midfielder Otavio said, “Morocco are an extremely tough team to face. Most of their players have appeared in practically all their games at this World Cup. They’ve only conceded one goal and they’re really strong. They are a very defensive team, but they are good at transitioning to attack. We are focused on what we have to do to win.” Morocco coach Walid Regragui: “I’m proud of them [players]. If you’d told me before the World Cup we would have played Belgium, Croatia, Canada and Spain and conceded only one goal [I’d have been thrilled]…we have an incredible squad.”
Morocco coach Walid Regragui said , “I’m proud of them [players]. If you’d told me before the World Cup we would have played Belgium, Croatia, Canada and Spain and conceded only one goal [I’d have been thrilled]…we have an incredible squad.”
Venue:Al Thumama Stadium