It’s the second and final day of the quarterfinals. The stunning Morocco team is set to mark more history on this stage against the charasmatic Portugal side who may have just realised their actual potential without Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. And then we have the giants of England and France with massive talent set to face each other for glory. These are some mouth-watering fixtures to group-watch, so get your popcorn ready!
Morocco vs Portugal, 15:00 GMT
The quest for the biggest trophy in all football continues as the World Cup final stage comes closer. Solid as a rock Morocco meets charismatic Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium today.
Fernandos Santos and Co. must stay alert to the threat of upset showcased by the Moroccans in surprising Spain and making history. The Atlas Lions stood firm, holding La Roja to a 0-0 draw before beating them 3-0 on penalties, thanks to goalkeeper Yassine Bounou’s saves and Achraf Hakimi’s cold ‘panenka’.
Walid Regragui’s side became just the fourth African team to reach the last eight at a World Cup, keeping three big clean sheets in four games in Qatar, which is the most ever by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.
If they manage to pull another stunner against the Portuguese, the Moroccans will become the first African nation to reach the semifinals of a World Cup, but they’ll have to manage without regular starters Nayef Aguerd and Noussair Mazraoui, who are both out injured.
On the Portuguese side, Fernandos Santos’ may have potentially witnessed his best-ever game since 2016’s European Championship success by defeating Switzerland 6-1. Plus, Santos really did display who’s the boss, asserting his authority by keeping Portugal’s iconic captain Cristiano Ronaldo on bench and being rewarded handsomely for the decision.
This Portuguese side did look far more mobile and proactive in attack by dropping aging superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, replacement Goncalo Ramos rising to the occasion. The 21-year-old completed a fairy-tale hattrick, the first treble of the tournament on his very first senior start.
And the depth of this squad is something for opponents to worry about, such as when Rafael Leao came off the bench to make an instant impact.
However, Morocco has one of the biggest fan bases in Qatar, manager Regragui calling for the support from the rest of the Arab world to create chaos and pressure on Portugal’s concentration, and to sustain the Moroccans’ solid back line to the final four.
Prediction: 1 – 3
England vs France, 19:00 GMT
Possibly the biggest game so far in this World Cup, one could say that neither team can be called a favorite this time.
The Three Lions and Les Bleus eased past Senegal and Poland respectively to collide with each other in what could have been the final. England has won both of the sides’ previous World Cup meetings, while France has lost just one of the past eight between the nations in all competitions.
Both teams provide impressive attacking threat, but in weaknesses, England has further variety and balance than the French side in the middle of the park. And, one can argue that France does have a mistake in the back line, while surprisingly, the Three Lions defense has done the job, keeping three successive clean sheets in a campaign in which favored teams have conceded so often.
What England doesn’t have is a world class player who goes by the name of Kylian Mbappe. Didier Deschamps’ side has the second-most shots (75) and third-highest expected goals total (8), but has golden boot candidate Kylian Mbappe aiming to add to his overall tally of nine WC goals – the same as Lionel Messi and one more than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Kyle Walker’s clash with Kylian Mbappe has written plenty of headlines ahead of this battle and is something to look forward to, but the French star on his day is simply unstoppable. He can push Les Bleus to a second consecutive World Cup title, and being just 24-year-old can dream of more to come.
Prediction: 2 — 3
What are your predictions for today’s quarterfinals? Which players are you backing to steal the headlines? Is there going to be an upset? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!