The Route to the Quarterfinal
The Moroccan national football team have become the first North African and Arabic nation to reach the quarterfinals of the competition. The team, managed by Walid Regragui, is one of the most impressive so far. They managed to finish first in Group F, a group that featured Brazil, Canada and Croatia.
In the opening game, Morocco drew 0-0 with Croatia. This rapidly improved in the second match, as Morocco defeated Belgium 2-0. In the final game, ‘The Atlas Lions’ scored early on in a 2-1 win over Canada. This was the first time that Morocco had finished first in their World Cup group.
It put them into a round of 16 clash against the mighty Spain. Although the Spanish team are not the same as they used to be, they were still expected to go through. Morocco, captained by their vocal leader Romain Saïss, held out after 120 minutes for a goalless draw. This sent the knockout match into penalties.
The shootout was ultimately decided by the Moroccan goalkeeper, Bono. He saved the spot kicks that he had faced as Morocco beat Spain 3-0 on penalties. The final penalty was scored by the most talented player in the Moroccan team, Achraf Hakimi. The 25-year-old plays for Paris Saint Germain and scored a ‘panenka’ style penalty to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. It is the first time Morocco have reached this stage and if they win, they will become the first African team ever to play in a semi-final of the World Cup.
One of the most exciting teams to watch at the 2022 World Cup is Portugal. The team are captained by Cristiano Ronaldo in what is looking like his last tournament ever. In the opening game, Portugal defeated Ghana by three goals to two. Ronaldo scored a penalty in that match, becoming the first male player ever to score at five separate World Cup tournaments. The team will be aiming for success in Qatar, after winning their first ever trophy in the 2016 Euros.
The second match in the group stage was played between Portugal and Uruguay. The Portuguese team managed to defeat Uruguay by two goals to nil. They went into the final group stage fixture having already secured first place. Portugal lost the South Korea but still advanced as top-dogs into the round of 16.
Perhaps one of the trickier rounds of 16 ties, the Portuguese national team were drawn with Switzerland. The Swiss team are placed as 15th in the FIFA rankings, making the tie somewhat an even battle. One of the major talking points was an hour before kickoff, when manager Fernando Santos named his starting eleven and left Ronaldo on the bench.
Santos’ decision turned out to be the right one. He opted to go for a younger striker in Gonçalo Ramos. The 21-year-old Benfica attacker managed to score a hattrick in a 6-1 win over the Swiss national team. Ronaldo did eventually come onto the pitch in the 73rd minute, receiving probably the biggest cheer of the evening when he stepped on.
Current Odds at mr.play
There are a variety of betting markets that you can play with right here at mr.play. The favourites for the quarterfinal match are Portugal, with odds 1.63. A bet on Morocco to win the match pays odds 5.4 whilst a draw will pay out 3.55 times your bet.
It is also possible to bet on other lines for this fixture. For instance, a bet on over 2.5 goals pays 2.10. If you feel as though both teams will score, the odds are 2.06 for that to happen. It is also possible to bet on double chance results for this match. For instance, a bet on Morocco to win or draw pays 2.19, a bet on Portugal to win or draw pays 1.13 and a bet on either Portugal or Morocco to win pays 1.27.
Team Overviews & Player Profiles
The standout players for Morocco are Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech. Hakimi is one of the rising stars in PSG and has impressed for Morocco with his assured performances at this World Cup. He also kept a level head to slot in the deciding penalty against Spain to set up the tie.
Hakim Ziyech is a former Ajax player and now finds himself in the blue colours of Chelsea. He has a wonderful wand of a left-foot and has been instrumental in giving Morocco and attacking threat going forwards. He scored the opening goal in the 2-1 win over Canada in the final group stage match. If Morocco are going to advance to the semi-finals, a lot of hope rests on the shoulders of these two quality players.
The Portuguese national team will fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006. They have a fantastic crop of players including the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Pepe, Diogo Dalot and João Felix.
The big question is whether Ronaldo will play or if Ramos will be given another chance to perform. In the round of 16 match alone, he scored as many goals as Lionel Messi, Olivier Giroud and other players at this tournament have recorded. It is going to be an interesting call for Santos to make, particularly given the stature of Ronaldo. Perhaps he can make his mark on the pitch after coming on from the bench.
One Win Each
Morocco and Portugal have only ever faced each other at the World Cup twice before. In 1986, Morocco beat Portugal by three goals to one. In their more recent encounter, Portugal beat Morocco 1-0 at the 2018 Russia World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the lone goal.