Until the last matchday, all the matches in the Round of 16 at the World Cup in Qatar had been won by the favourites. Would you call Morocco's victory over Spain a sensation? Probably with a stretch. After all, Morocco have not lost a single match in the group stage, confidently beating Belgium and conceding only one goal. The Spanish team lost to the Japanese in the decisive match of the group stage and might have not even reached the play-offs. So, the betting odds of 3.80 for Morocco to advance to the next round can surely be considered overestimated.
The game followed the predictable scenario: Spain possessed the ball and tried to create at least some dangerous attacks at Bounou's goal post, while Morocco defended massively, looking to counterattack. In the end, Spain, of course, had more shots on goal, but the Moroccans were ahead in terms of shots on target. The substitute Walid Cheddira had two great chances to end the game in regular time, but he was a bit slow. In extra time, the teams were predictably cautious. So the game was decided in the penalty shoot-out, where the Spaniards, even the experienced Sergio Busquets, failed to score even once. Much credit goes to Morocco's goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou, who became the second goalkeeper in World Cup history not to concede in a penalty shoot-out.
Much more sensational was the Portugal v Switzerland match. No, not in terms of the result, but in terms of the Portuguese starting line-up and the score, 6-1. Only Germany scored more in the World Cup play-offs of the 21st century, in that semi-final in 2014 against Brazil (7-1). Cristiano Ronaldo did not appear in the Portuguese starting line-up for the first time since 2008. While sitting on the bench, he had a mixed reaction to the achievements of his teammates, either smiling or being sad. Gonçalo Ramos, who replaced Cristiano, produced a stunning match and secured the first hat-trick of the tournament in Qatar. In general, the whole Portuguese team played great, even Cristiano scored a goal after coming on as a substitute, but he was flagged for offside.
The Portuguese have not looked so strong in the group: the victories over Uruguay and Ghana have not been convincing. Could it be that Ronaldo's absence had such an impact on the game? Before the match against Morocco, Portugal coach Fernando Santos will have a difficult choice to make. He has not yet decided what Ronaldo's role will be: "That is still something which has to be defined. I have a very close relationship with him, I always have. I will always consider that he is a very important player to have in the team. I have three players I fully trust. For each match I will use which player I see for my strategy. All the players on the bench can be used".
The quarter-final match will be played on December 10 at Al-Thumama Stadium. This will be the third quarter-final for the Portuguese, who have reached the semi-finals on two previous occasions. This is the first time Morocco have reached the quarter-finals, and it is only the fourth team from Africa to reach so far in the tournament. African teams have never played in the semi-finals.
Morocco vs Portugal odds
According to Morocco vs Portugal odds, Portugal are favourites to advance to the next stage at odds of 1.30, with the odds of 1.70 for a victory in regular time.The odds are 5.80 for the Moroccans to win within 90 minutes and the odds of 3.60 for them to reach the semi-finals.
Morocco vs Portugal prediction
In our Morocco v Portugal prediction, we assume that the match will be similar to the Morocco vs Spain game. The Portuguese will dominate and Morocco will defend. With such a solid defence, you need the hero the Spaniards lacked, but Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. This football player likes difficulties and challenges, so we suggest taking a risk and bet on Ronaldo to play and score. And if you look for a safe Morocco vs Portugal prediction, the betting odds of 2.20 on Portugal to win and Under 3.5 in regular time look really good.
Also, we'll add some interesting statistical observations that might help you decide which bet to place:
- Morocco are the worst team left in the tournament in terms of xG created. If you take all the teams that have been eliminated as well, only the hosts of the tournament, Qatar, are worse than the Moroccans in this regard.
- Portugal like to score and concede in the second half: 9 of their 12 goals at the tournament were scored after the break and 4 out of 5 goals were conceded.
- In 4 of the last 5 Portugal's matches, there have been more than 2.5 goals scored. In contrast, less than 2.5 goals have been scored in 5 of the last 7 Morocco's matches.
- The Morocco team spent half an hour more on the pitch during the Round of 16. Some players may have suffered muscular injuries and defender Nayef Aguerd asked for a forced substitution during the game.