After Portugal’s 6-1 demolition of Switzerland, they’ll face Morocco, who won a penalty shootout against Spain.
Even though Portugal’s group stage game against Morocco was “probably the most challenging encounter the team faced,” they fell in the round of 16 to Uruguay four years ago.
Having joined the elite company of Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2007) as the only other African nations to reach the quarterfinals of soccer’s biggest competition, Morocco is now in uncharted terrain (2010). No one made it through the quarterfinals.
Morocco is the first non-European or non-South American team to get to the quarterfinals in Qatar. After beating Spain in a penalty shootout in the round of 16, the team’s many fans in Qatar and elsewhere celebrated in delirium.
And it’s not just luck that’s gotten Morocco, the Arab world’s standard bearer, to the quarterfinals; they earned it.
With a solid back four led by Achraf Hakimi, a committed midfield led by Sofyan Amrabat, two speedy wingers in Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal, and a striker in Youssef En-Nesyri who occupies defences with his tireless work rate, the club has allowed only one goal in three games.
Santos was able to rest starters like Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo, and Ruben Neves against Switzerland because Portugal doesn’t appear to be dealing with any injury issues.
The fact that Ronaldo is participating in what will almost certainly be his final World Cup means that he will almost certainly see some playing time even if he is once again on the bench. Given all the controversy that follows him around, whatever happens, he will be the centre of attention.
Morocco and Portugal are tied in the overall head-to-head record. Portugal and Morocco played each other twice, with each team taking home a victory on one occasion.
But some of Morocco’s most important players may be too sick to play against Portugal.
At the end of the game against Spain, captain Romain Saiss had his leg bandaged up after receiving treatment, and teammate centre defender Nayef Aguerd hobbled off in tears after injuring his thigh, but Amrabat stated he played through the pain despite needing painkilling injections in his back. It would be foolish for Portugal to leave CR7 on the bench for such an important game.
Even after extra time, the score will remain 1-1. After a series of penalty shootouts, Morocco will emerge victorious.