The World Cup round of 16 wraps up with two intriguing games, starting with a tough test for Spain against Morocco before Portugal and Switzerland go head-to-head.
Morocco upset the formbook to finish top of Group F, helping to dump Belgium out of the tournament and having the better of a goalless draw with 2018 runners-up Croatia.
The Atlas Lions, who have been well-backed in Qatar, now have the scalp of Spain in their sights but, despite performing to a high standard so far, their chances aren’t rated too highly at to win in 90 minutes.
Tuesday’s opening last-16 match should be far tighter than those odds suggest and the same goes for Portugal’s clash with Switzerland.
Portugal have produced a mixed bag of performances at this World Cup, looking decidedly disorganised against Ghana before a championship-calibre win over Uruguay.
What: Morocco v Spain, World Cup last 16
Where: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
When: 15:00, Tuesday 6th December 2022
How to watch: ITV1
Not a great deal was expected of Morocco after they underperformed at the Africa Cup of Nations, leading to the decision to appoint the inexperienced Walid Regragui as head coach a matter of months before the World Cup started.
A chronic lack of form amongst their top players in the build-up added further to fears of a fourth successive group stage exit but the North Africans have managed to pull it together to reach the knockout stage for only the second time in their history.
Morocco’s success has been built on a solid defensive foundation which has conceded a tournament-low one goal and should pose a big problem to a Spain side that’s failed to repeat the kind of clinical performance that saw them hit Costa Rica for seven in their opening game.
Spain’s bad habits have re-emerged with La Roja dominating their following two games against Germany and Japan but taking only one point from those matches.
Morocco’s ability to break quickly and effectively, as Japan did so well when they beat the 2010 champions, presents Spanish coach Luis Enrique with a tricky tactical dilemma and, although he’s unlikely to alter his scheme too much, La Roja may need to be a little more cautious.
What: Portugal v Switzerland, World Cup last 16
Where: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
When: 19:00, Tuesday 6th December 2022
How to watch: ITV1
Portugal have only made it past the round of 16 stage twice in their history but are expected to roll over the Swiss in Lusail.
That’s despite Switzerland now having plenty of tournament experience having reached this stage in the last three World Cups, while they’ve given Portugal a few problems in recent meetings.
They shared one win apiece in their Nations League meetings this year and Murat Yakin’s men have looked well-organised for the most part, holding their own against Brazil for 84 minutes and managing the game well against Serbia when they got their noses in front.
Portugal have scored in their last nine World Cup games and their embarrassment of attacking riches will make them hard to resist.
So reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo in the past, Portugal have plenty of other options capable of making an impact with young duo Joao Felix and Rafael Leao already getting on the scoresheet in Qatar.
Perhaps the Portuguese’s best player at the tournament so far is Bruno Fernandes and at 7/2 the Manchester United man is a nice anytime goalscorer option having netted both goals in the win over Uruguay. He’s also to have over 0.5 assists having had a hand in two of Portugal’s three goals against Ghana.
Switzerland will do well to hold out against Fernandes and co and the attacking talent of Portugal should eventually make a telling impact.