|Morocco can go all the way to push Africa to the last four of the World Cup on Saturday but they have to beat an inspired Portuguese team. (Photo credit: ClutchPoints)|
Africa’s only hope, the Atlas Lion of Morocco will lock horns with Portugal on Saturday as they try to do what no African side has done, fighting for a place in the last four of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Portugal blew away Switzerland on a day they thought they’d have fun due to the Cristiano Ronaldo incident but Portugal played the best game of their lives, with freedom and a new hero emerged from the shadows of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Portugal will feel like it’s theirs to win but because they know they can be underwhelming when the stakes are high, they will stay respectful and cautious; they can’t afford to underestimate the Africans, they must have a solid game plan, and stick to it.
Morocco has proven to be gritty; they beat Belgium with efficient game management and then went on to force Spain into a corner; you might pin lots of their success on the magic of their goalkeeper Yassine Bounou but the entire team worked hard for their quarter-final ticket.
Will Ronaldo start against Morocco? That’s a question Fernando Santos cannot answer until the team sheet is out but the veteran manager has come out to defend his superstar on rumors he threatened to leave the training camp in Qatar.
How will Portugal line up? It’s a little tricky as the coach will be wary of Morocco’s antics but he can’t be conservative. He has to attack the game like the favorite that he is and pin Morocco back while staying alert to all potential counterattacks.
Portugal won’t want the game to go into extra time, that will be the dream of Morocco and they will follow it to the last bits. It’s a game that will be decided by precision and discipline, which sounds like the hallmark of Morocco.
It’s crazy to know that the winner of this game won’t still be seen as the potential World Cup winner as they will have to play the winner between France and England in the semifinal; anything can happen but this game is capable of bringing shock waves.
Verdict: Portugal to advance