Morocco vs Portugal World Cup 2022: Date & Time, Match Preview, Team News, Prediction

As the field continues to narrow and the World Cup trophy comes closer into sight, trailblazers Morocco meet quarter-final opponents Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.
December 10, 2022 | 08:56

Portugal appeared to usher in the next generation against Switzerland last time out, and now they'll hope lightning can strike twice when they take on Morocco in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.

The 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos bagged a Round of 16 hat-trick in place of 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portugal starting lineup, announcing himself to the world while the aging superstar watched from the bench.

That sent Portugal on their way to a 6-1 thrashing and a spot in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, Morocco sprung a stunning upset of Spain, managing to hold on for a 0-0 draw and winning on penalties after goalkeeper Yassine Bounou made two stops in the shootout and Pablo Sarabia had hit the post.

Spain were devoid of ideas on how to break down Morocco, who looked the more likely side to score on multiple occasions.

The Atlas Lions will be hoping to become the first African nation to reach the semifinals of a World Cup, but one of the tournament's most in-form teams stands in their way.

When is Morocco v Portugal?

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Morocco v Portugal will kick off at 3pm on Saturday 10th December 2022.

Match preview

Assuring hero status forever more, Achraf Hakimi applied the most delicate of finishing touches to Morocco's defensive masterclass on Tuesday, as his 'Panenka' penalty condemned Spain to a 3-0 shootout defeat and sent the North African nation through to the quarter-finals.

Having battled hard to resist the Spanish 'death by a thousand passes' approach, Walid Regragui's side had sacrificed the bulk of possession to grind out a goalless draw and set the stage for a spectacular finale, during which goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved two spot-kicks and joined Hakimi as an eternal icon in Rabat, Marrakech and beyond.

Becoming just the fourth African side to reach the last eight at a World Cup - and the first for 12 years - sent a packed Education City Stadium wild, as it was largely populated by Moroccan fans whose fervour has proved such a prominent feature of these finals.

Rewarded for asserting his authority by benching Portugal's iconic captain, Fernando Santos enjoyed perhaps his greatest triumph since 2016's European Championship success this week, when the Selecao stormed past Switzerland and into the last eight of Qatar 2022.

A far more mobile and proactive attack was the result of dropping ageing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, and his replacement - Benfica starlet Goncalo Ramos - was certainly up to the task of replacing the dethroned king.

Having lashed home an unstoppable opener, the 21-year-old went on to complete a fairytale hat-trick in Portugal's 6-1 victory, and his was the first treble of the tournament - on his very first senior start.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

If there were any doubts that the future has arrived right now in Portuguese football, Milan winger Rafael Leao capped off his team's blitz of the Swiss by firing in the sixth goal of a display which made the world sit up and take notice.

Despite a late lapse against South Korea when already qualified, Santos had seen his side negotiate safe passage through the World Cup's first phase as Group H winners, and with three wins and 12 goals to their name already, they may well believe they can now lift the trophy for the very first time.

Eusebio-inspired semi-finalists in 1966, Portugal have more recently belied their relatively modest population to win both the Euros and Nations League. For all their success at youth level, too, the Iberians have never made it to a senior global final, but Saturday's clash with Morocco presents a chance to take one step closer to the beautiful game's grandest prize.

The Atlas Lions' only previous appearance in the last 16 came back in 1986, and Regragui's men have not only broken new ground for their nation but also the Arab world. In the process, they extended an unbeaten run in the World Cup to five matches and kept a remarkable sixth clean sheet from their last seven outings.

With the quality and commitment of Hakimi, fellow full-back Noussair Mazraoui, plus their centre-backs and tireless midfield anchor Sofyan Amrabat, a Morocco squad drawn partly from the diaspora have developed into one of international football's meanest defensive units.

Fending off members of the European establishment such as Croatia and Belgium also saw them finish first in Group F earlier on in the campaign, so tackling Portugal should hold no fears for the quarter-finals' outsiders.

Morocco vs Portugal team news

Photo: Bleacher Report
Photo: Bleacher Report

Morocco are walking wounded after expending significant energy against Spain. The critical duo of Sofiane Boufal and Nayef Aguerd were both substituted off against La Roja due to injuries. Boufal especially would be a huge loss, as he's been one of the best midfielders at the World Cup.

The absence of Amine Harit, who was ruled out before the tournament, has clearly affected Morocco's goalscoring threat.

There are no fresh injury concerns coming into this match for Portugal. They are without Diogo Jota, who was ruled out pre-tournament, and Nuno Mendes who will take no further part in the World Cup after an injury in the Uruguay match.

The biggest question is to the fitness of Danilo, who is hoping to recover from broken ribs in time to see the field. And whether Ronaldo plays given he was benched by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss.

Morocco vs Portugal prediction

While Morocco managed to hold a toothless Spain side down for the entirety of their Round of 16 match, they expended an exhausting amount of energy doing so.

Portugal have proven they can break down bunkered sides, bagging a pair of goals against Uruguay and beating up on a defensive-minded Switzerland.

Once Portugal get their opener and Morocco have to come out of their shell, this match will turn into a track meet, and that will suit the European side.

Score prediction: Portugal 3 Morocco 0

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