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Morocco v Portugal World Cup quarter-final preview

Portugal have a great chance of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup for the third time in their history when they take on Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium.

Portugal, 6/1 to Win The World Cup Outright, produced some sublime football in their 6-1 demolition of Switzerland in the Round of 16 and appear to be on course to follow in the footsteps of the 1966 and 2006 teams that reached the semi-finals.

What: Morocco v Portugal, World Cup quarter-final
Where: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
When: 15:00, Saturday 10th December 2022
How to watch: ITV1
Odds: Morocco 9/2, Draw 5/2, Portugal 7/10

Ronaldo’s absence can boost Portugal

Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos hit the first hat-trick of the tournament on his first international start against Switzerland and can be backed at 25/1 to Win the Golden Boot.

The 21-year-old scored 14 goals in 21 games for his club prior to the World Cup and showed why Fernando Santos opted to start with him against the Swiss rather than Cristiano Ronaldo.

The build-up to the Morocco match has been overshadowed by rumours that the former Real Madrid and Manchester United veteran threatened to leave the World Cup after being told that he would not be starting the game against Switzerland - stories Ronaldo and the Portuguese Football Federation have denied.

However, it seemed that the Portugal players were liberated against the Swiss without Ronaldo’s presence as the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Ramos and Joao Felix all impressed in his absence.

Felix has the chance to shine

Felix in particular was dazzling, finally able to loosen the shackles that have been imposed on him at club level by Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone, and which have curtailed his progress since his £113million switch to the Spanish capital from Benfica in the summer of 2019.

The 23-year-old is 11/4 to Score At Anytime against Morocco, while Fernandes is 15/2 to be the First Goalscorer.

Portugal showed far more fluidity against Switzerland than they had in their group games against Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea when their football was often stodgy and predictable. It will be interesting to see whether they revert to a more conservative approach against Morocco.

Four years ago in Russia, Ronaldo was on target as Portugal edged past Morocco 1-0 in the group stage and it would not be a surprise if there was a similar scoreline after 90 minutes on Saturday - available at 11/2.

It was a different story at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico though when Morocco saw off Portugal 3-1 in their final group encounter, a result that took the North Africans to the last 16 for the first, and only, time until the current tournament.

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Solid Morocco have ability to frustrate

The Atlas Lions produced the only genuine shock of the Round of 16 when they beat Spain on penalties after holding the 2010 champions to a goalless draw after extra time.

Coach Walid Regragui has produced a well-organised side that have only conceded one goal in the tournament to date - in the 2-1 victory against Canada - and that was an own goal.

However, Morocco are not just a defensive side as there is also lots of flair in the team. They have kept seven clean sheets in their last eight games but also had plenty of chances to beat Spain before the shoot-out.

The Morocco fans were superb in the battle with Spain and they are expected to make up the majority of the crowd again in the quarter-final clash - something which could tip the tie in the Africans’ favour. A Morocco Win After Extra Time is available at 20/1 and Morocco Win After Penalties at 11/1.

Morocco do have injury concerns over defensive duo Nayef Aguerd and Romain Saiss, who were both outstanding against Spain, while Sofiane Boufal also picked up an injury and is a doubt.

However, Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou has the chance to keep yet another clean sheet - Morocco can be backed at 7/2 To Keep A Clean Sheet after 90 minutes.

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 in 2002 and Ghana eight years later by advancing to the last four.

They showed when drawing with Croatia and beating Belgium and Canada in the group stage that they have the ability to match some of the best teams in the world, but they may come up just short against resurgent Portugal.

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