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Qatar 2022; Morocco’s big day gives rise to hope

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Morocco go into the biggest game in their history on Saturday when they take on Portugal in a World Cup quarterfinal at the Al Thumama Stadium, the first time they have reached this stage of the competition.

The European side will be overwhelming favourites to win, but Morocco, who ousted Spain in the last round, have shown they can be competitive with any team in Qatar.

Here are five talking points ahead of the game.


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Morocco’s game-plan has been clear in this World Cup. They are happy for better teams to have the ball and back themselves to keep their opponents out, and then hit them on the quick counterattack with their skillful forwards.

Against Spain, they had as little as 27 per cent of the ball, but in truth the European side barely troubled them at the back as Morocco stayed compact and watched their opponents pass and pass with little effect.

It will be the same against Portugal, though the latter can be more direct and have some real game-breakers in the likes of Bruno Fernandes, who can unluck a defence with one move.

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It is a slightly more risker tactic for Morocco this time round, but they can’t afford to try and go toe-to-toe with Portugal. They will be outgunned.


Morocco face an anxious wait over some of their key players, not least key defender Nayed Aguerd, who was in tears when he was forced off against Spain.

He has only just returned from an ankle injury picked up in pre-season at West Ham after the latter paid Stade Rennes £30 million for his services ahead of the current campaign.

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His tears suggest he knows it is another bad one, but Morocco will do everything in their power to get him fit because he is such a key player for them.

Another worry is midfield destroyer Sofyan Amrabat, who has been simply superb in this tournament, but admitted he was playing through the pain and injections against the Spanish. His loss would eb devastating.


Morocco’s shoot-out win over Spain was their first ever post-match penalties in a World Cup and they came through with flying colours, winning 3-0 as goalkeeper Yassine Bounou proved the hero.

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If their game-plan works, this might be the decider again against Portugal, who have also only ever been involved in one shoot-out in the past – the quarterfinals against England in 2006.

On that occasion the story was about two Manchester United stars on either side in Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, and it was the Iberian side that triumphed 3-1.


Nielsen’s Gracenote are specialist forecasters who predict the winners of football competitions and matches.

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They still have Brazil as favourites to win the World Cup, but, perhaps a little surprisingly, have Portugal to meet them in the final. They suggest Brazil will have a 64 per cent chance of winning that decider.

As for the quarterfinal between Portugal and Morocco, they suggest the former have a 59& chance of winning the game, and then a 51 per cent chance of beating France in the semifinals.

All a bit tight and certainly not the landslide victory many believe Portugal will achieve on Saturday against their African opponents.

That is how much Morocco have changed perceptions in this World Cup.


The ear-shattering cacophonic combination of singing, drumming, jeering and whistling from Morocco’s supporters has creates an atmosphere like no other in Qatar’s stadiums. They were again the vast majority in the capacity 44 667 crowd at the Education City Stadium against Spain, completely drowning out the opposing fans.

There is no ambiguity about their support as they cheer their team and barrack the opposition in equal measure, and the Moroccan players often turn to them for a lift when needed. That will be the case again on Saturday.

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