Morocco vs Portugal Prediction
10th December 2022
18:00 Qatar Time/15:00 GMT
Al Thumama Stadium, Doha
Referee: Facundo Tello (Argentina)
Click to Scroll to Prediction
World Cup Head-to-Head Record
Played:1 Portugal Wins:1
Morocco vs Portugal Prediction Match Overview
Both sides meet in this highly anticipated quarter-final clash off the back of highly impressive performances, albeit of a different nature. Morocco have a hard-earned reputation for defensive solidity off the back of clean sheets against sides who were considered to be stronger by the vast majority of analysts coming into the tournament. A 0-0 draw in their group opener against Croatia was followed by a comfortable 2-0 victory over group favourites Belgium. The only goal they’ve conceded so far was an own goal in a 2-1 win over Canada in their final group match. In the round of 16, Spain were unable to make any headway either despite monopolising possession, and Morocco were excellent value for their 0-0 draw as they restricted the Spanish to a handful of chances and one shot on target. They held their nerve in the resultant penalty shoot-out to earn the right to face Portugal.
Portugal qualified comfortably from Group H following a topsy-turvy 3-2 win over Ghana and a routine 2-0 victory over Uruguay, but stumbled in their final game against South Korea, falling to a 2-1 defeat late in the game. Fernando Santos made some high-profile changes as a result, dropping both Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo in favour of Goncalo Ramos and Diogo Dalot. Few predicted what transpired against Switzerland in their round of 16 match – Portugal were utterly dominant from start to finish in their 6-1 rout. The two sides face off here for the right to meet the winners of England vs France in the semi-finals.
The quarter-final stage is the furthest that an African nation has reached in the World Cup. Morocco are the fourth side to achieve this feat, following in the footsteps of Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. Can they be the first African nation to reach the semi-finals?
Injuries and Suspensions
Might not play: Hakimi, Aguerd (Morocco)
Will not play: Pereira, Mendes (Portugal)
Morocco vs Portugal Prediction Analysis
Breaching the Impenetrable Moroccan Defence
While this may seem to be self-evident, it’s worth noting that the Moroccan defence doesn’t easily give up clear goalscoring opportunities. This is a trend that extends to their four friendly matches before the tournament too, meaning that Morocco have only conceded one goal, an unfortunate own goal, in eight matches. While we could have dismissed this before the tournament by questioning the level of opposition provided by Jamaica, a Chile side in decline, Paraguay and Georgia, the fact remains that they made it through those games unbreached and have now managed to keep clean sheets in over 300 minutes of football against Croatia, Belgium and Spain.
Again, this seems obvious, but what Portugal mustn’t do is to fall into the trap of sterile possessions, and possession for the sake of possession. When playing stronger opposition, the Moroccans are perfectly comfortable with the opposition having two-thirds of possession or more, before condensing the space and harassing the opposition ruthlessly once they approach dangerous areas. The ball must be moved quickly and with purpose to pull the Moroccan defence out of shape, with the onus being on Portugal’s attacking players to not render themselves too predictable in the final third. This should be achieved by positional interplay, which is perhaps made easier by the introduction of Ramos rather than Ronaldo who is more static in terms of his positioning as he enters the final years of his long career.
Patient, possession-based football has long been considered to be a superior mode of football, stemming primarily from the considerable successes of Barcelona and the Spanish national team in particular, but this game calls for risk-taking, high-tempo and generally a more chaotic approach to attacking, which the Portuguese seem well-equipped to implement. It is perhaps a cliche, but Portugal do possess unpredictable attacking midfielders in both Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, and Joao Felix may nominally be a striker but he plays a lot of his best football in between the defence and midfield lines. Morocco for their part have excelled at denying the opposition attackers any meaningful space and time throughout the tournament, and they’ll feel confident that they will be up to the challenge once again.
The Counter-Attacking Threat
Portugal will have to be wary of committing too many players forward, as Morocco are a very different team to the recently vanquished Switzerland. Morocco are far better at playing a compact game, holding their shape and allowing the opposition possession in relatively harmless areas, before springing into action once they’ve won the ball back. Portugal’s full-backs have remained fairly disciplined in a positional sense throughout the tournament, with many observers surprised that Joao Cancelo wasn’t playing his usual swashbuckling inverted full-back role that he plays for club side Manchester City to high acclaim. Morocco have so many counter-attacking threats that they force the opposition to second-guess themselves when committing men forward, so Portugal will have to get the balance just right here.
The Moroccan counter-attacking threat starts with both fullbacks, Hakimi and Mazraoui, who ably support their attacking trident of Ziyech, En Nesyri and Boufal. This focus on attacking down the channels is why the Portuguese must play with discipline from their full-backs, and they will need to cover any forays forward that Guerreiro and Dalot make with a midfielder dropping in place for them, typically William Carvalho. Once Morocco launch their counter-attack, ideally the Portuguese want to shut them down as soon as possible but they would prefer to do this cleanly rather than stop the attack at all costs. While that might seem counter-intuitive, given the proliferation of high pressing, stop-the-counter-at-all-costs football that has allowed coaches such as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to perfect their attacking brands of football in recent years, Portugal will want to catch the Moroccans out of position. So here, they need to counter-press intelligently and launch rapid attacks of their own.
As this is likely to be a game in which chances are at a considerable premium, the value of set-piece opportunities increases. Both sides have capable set piece specialists such as Hakimi and Fernandes, and both sides won’t be shy about packing the area at every opportunity to make them count. Therefore it’s vital, particularly in Morocco’s case as they are expected to cede territory to the Portuguese to better defend their own area, that neither side gives away needless free-kicks in dangerous areas.
Morocco Key Players
Put simply, Amrabat has probably been the most impressive defensive midfielder of the entire tournament. He has barely put a foot wrong, playing as more of an anchorman for the Moroccans which enables him to prevent the opposition from running directly at the defence while providing reliable, forward-thinking distribution when in possession. It’s his role within Morocco’s tactical setup, which is almost certain to be unchanged when it is working so well for them, that his importance to the team is magnified. Morocco love to counter-attack at speed, particularly through the channels and therefore Amrabat is required to cover for their marauding fullbacks. Thankfully for the Moroccans, it’s a task for which the Fiorentina man is perfectly suited.
Morocco’s chances of making history here rest in their ability to counter-attack quickly and decisively. We expect that Portugal will likely be more dangerous than Spain when it comes to their attacking output, so we feel that 0-0 probably isn’t on the cards again here. Therefore, Morocco will need their attacking weapons to be at their sprightly, creative best and Hakimi is certainly inventive when given time and space. Capable of operating as an inverted full-back, Hakimi provides Morocco with an unconventional attacking threat who has the vision and the technique required to thread passes as the counterattack quickly unfolds. They’ll need him to be at his best today.
Portugal Key Players
That miserly Moroccan defence will need to be unlocked, and Fernandes’ risky take on chance creation could very well pay off here. Fernandes is always looking for the killer ball, and isn’t a player who naturally chooses the safe option. We expect that most Portuguese attacks will be rebuffed by the Moroccans, and therefore what the Portuguese need is a player who won’t be discouraged at the 6th, 7th and 8th time of asking. As we’ve previously mentioned in this preview, Fernandes is also a threat from set pieces, specifically crossing opportunities as he prefers to put the ball into the area rather than strike directly at goal.
At times out of necessity, Morocco will leave spaces in-behind as they try to establish an attacking threat of their own, and Guerreiro has proven time and again for both club and country that he is one of the finest attacking fullbacks around. Like Denmark’s Joakim Maehle, Guerreiro often plays as a flying winger when given the licence to do so, and Portugal will need to create overloads to generate clearer opportunities because playing through the Moroccan defence may prove exceptionally difficult, as three leading European sides have already found out to their cost.
Beat the Bookmaker Morocco vs Portugal Prediction
We’re surprising nobody here by predicting a tight game, yet we feel it will not be a dull affair. We expect to see plenty of last-ditch defending and excellent buildup play but with passes that just miss their final mark as the pitch becomes congested, particularly at the Moroccan end. We think that Portugal have the creative tools and the right balance between possession and chance creation to do what Spain, Belgium and Croatia could not – breach the Moroccan back line. They will have to work hard for their breakthrough, and they will be made to sweat at times on the counter but we feel that the Portuguese will be disciplined enough to ensure that Morocco’s counter-attacking threat is well contained for the most part.
Morocco 0-1 Portugal; Portugal to Win in 90 Minutes
Beat the Bookmaker Morocco vs Portugal Prediction – Portugal to Win in 90 Minutes Odds:
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