Fresh from their famous victory over Spain, Morocco’s history-makers enter the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time ever today when they meet a star-studded Portuguese outfit at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
Walid Regragui’s expertly-organised Moroccans were able to keep Spain at arm’s length in the Round of 16, though Portugal played with incision and imagination against Switzerland (6-1) and freed from Cristiano Ronaldo’s deadweight, they looked like a super-charged attacking force. Can Morocco find a way to stop the Portuguese onslaught this afternoon?
I’ve got all of the statistical goodies you need below to launch an assault on the bet builder markets today. From shots to xG, corners to cards and passes to fouls, I’ve got all the angles covered. If you need a bit of advice about how to get the most out of the data, check out my Stats Pack Guide here.
A number of Morocco’s heroic performers against Spain are in a race against time to feature in this afternoon’s quarter-final. Both members of their centre-back pairing, Nayef Aguerd and Romain Saiss, picked up injuries against La Roja and are doubtful here.
Full-backs Achraf Hakimi and Nousssair Mazraoui have been nursing niggles, and the latter will be sitting out of this one. Sofyan Amrabat carried a back problem right throughout his dynamic display in midfield against the Spaniards. Walid Regragui will have his fingers crossed that all of his starts will be fit to play.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable fall from grace continued when he talked his way out of the Portuguese line-up ahead of the Round of 16. His replacement, Goncalo Ramos netted a hattrick in his absence, so there is zero chance of Ronaldo reclaiming his spot in attack today.
Joao Cancelo and Ruben Neves were also benched against Switzerland in favour of Diogo Dalot and Otavio. Cancelo remains on the bench today, but the Wolves midfielder returns to the starting XI in place of William Carvalho today.
Morocco’s modesty in attack continued against Spain in the Round of 16 when they mustered just six attempts across 120 minutes of football, indeed, the African side have some of the weakest overall final third stats in the entire competition.
However, the Moroccans’ defensive strength has more than compensated for their shortcomings further up the pitch. They have allowed their opponents to lodge just 1.16 shots on target (p/90) against them and while they’ve been conceding plenty of corners, Morocco have been defending them with ease.
Remarkably, in a tough-as-nails set of fixtures in Qatar against Croatia, Canada, Belgium and Spain, Nayef Aguerd’s OG on matchday two against the Canadians remains the only goal Morocco have conceded.
All three of Portugal’s group fixtures ebbed and flowed like basketball games at times and the combined shot count from that trio of matches – 39-33 in Portugal’s favour – shines a light on how end-to-end those contests were.
Portugal’s xG, shots and shots on target against figures (p/90) have all been far meatier than the Moroccans’ so far, though a chaotic, open game would suit the Europeans much more than the Africans today.
Portugal have been drawing plenty of cards from opponents in Qatar which isn’t all that surprising given the high number of technically gifted players at their disposal.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Morocco have been getting just as much out of fullbacks Nousssair Mazaroui and Achraf Hakimi as attackers Sofiane Boufal, Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri in the shooting department.
Flying fullback Hakimi was the only member of that quintet to register an attempt against Spain in the Round of 16, however. Chelsea winger Ziyech had been hitting two shots per game before he drew a blank against Spain and the 29-year-old has been hitting the target with about a third of his efforts so far.
Portugal have conceded double-figure attempts in every World Cup fixture in Qatar to date, so Ziyech could have opportunities to find his range this afternoon. The wide attacker can be backed at around 5/6 with Paddy Power to hit at least one shot on target.
Goncalo Ramos dominated back pages across the globe after his stunning performance against Switzerland in the Round of 16 in what was the 21-year-old’s first-ever World Cup start.
Benfica starlet Ramos had six attempts against the Swiss and five of those hit the target. The centre-forward should be brimming with confidence today and he is an enormously generous option at 11/5 with Paddy Power to clock two or more shots on target against Morocco.
Regular starters Bruno Fernandes (1.67) and Joao Felix (2.22) are reliable options to consider, though centre-back Pepe (4/6 to have 0.5 shots) could be a neat inclusion after he had two attempts against Switzerland. The veteran defender is an expert at winning the first contact from set piece deliveries.
Player Goals and Assists
Morocco have scored only four times in four World Cup fixtures so far with Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss and Zakrai Aboukhlal all chipping in with one effort each.
Defender Saiss ranks highest for individual xG (0.8) followed by regular substitute Walid Cheddira (0.5) who made a mess of some promising breakaway chances against Spain in the Round of 16.
Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi and Sofiane Boufal all sit joint-first for shot-creating-actions (nine each), though Boufal is the only member of that trio still waiting to claim an assist.
Portugal’s squad is laden with defence-shredding power and midfield maestro Bruno Fernandes leads the way in Qatar with five goal contributions (2G, 3A).
Fernandes, along with Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos, thrived as an energetic front-three against Switzerland and that high-calibre trio bagged three goals and four assists between them in Portugal’s 6-1 rout. All three players are available at in and around even money with Paddy Power to grab either a goal or assist this afternoon. Excellent value.
Portugal are always productive at fullback and both Raphael Guerreiro (12/5) and Diogo Dalot (4/1) could be worth a flutter in the assist markets.
Sofyane Amrabat (1.86) has been attracting interest from Liverpool thanks to his combative showings in midfield and the 25-year-old, who made four tackles against Spain in the Round of 16, should be just as busy today.
Beside Amrabat, Selim Amallah (six fouls in Qatar) also plays with enough aggression to push him up the list of possible card candidates, while Romain Saiss (one card), who committed two fouls against the Spaniards, won’t shirk away from challenges again this afternoon.
Otavio (4.29) brought a fresh dimension to the Portuguese midfield against Switzerland and his line-breaking surges should put him on Amallah’s radar in Doha today.
Joao Felix’s (2.59) intelligent use of space and eye for a pass should earn him plenty of attention from Amrabat, while Bruno Fernandes (2.33), who has been playing a very advanced role for Portugal, should come into regular contact with the physically-imposing, Romain Saiss.
Match-Ups to watch:
Sofyane Amrabat vs Joao Felix
Romain Saiss vs Bruno Fernandes
Selim Amallah vs Otavio
Diogo Dalot has been a tackling machine (3.5 per game) for Portugal when unleashed by boss Fernando Santos and while the 23-year-old has yet to see yellow in Qatar, the defender collected them regularly at club level (six for Man Utd this term) and he stands out as an option to consider today when he faces foul-drawing expert, Boufal.
Joao Felix meanwhile, has committed more fouls than any other Portuguese player at the World Cup (seven) and as the furthest-left member of his team’s attacking trident, he could have tracking work to perform on the marauding Moroccan full-back, Hakimi.
William Carvalho (three fouls) will be tasked with providing bite in midfield for Portugal and the 30-year-old could be on the match official’s watch-list.
Sofiane Boufal (3.33) is fond of taking his marker on in one-on-one situations and he will enjoy testing rash-tackler, Diogo Dalot, this afternoon.
Azzedine Ounahi is given some licence to push forward from central positions and the midfielder’s forays could be checked by Carvalho. Rampaging right-back Achraf Hakimi offers thrust down his flank for Morocco and Joao Felix might have to roll out the dark arts he’s learned from his club manager, Diego Simeone, to keep his opponent in check.
Match-Ups to watch:
Diogo Dalot vs Soufiane Boufal
Joao Felix vs Achraf Hakimi
William Carvalho vs Azzedine Ounahi
Morocco have been averaging a paltry 35% possession at the World Cup, and though they are extremely comfortable without the ball, there are few candidates in their ranks worthy of consideration in the total passes markets today.
If you are determined to add a Moroccan player to your coupon here, then Achraf Hakimi might fit the bill. Feeding the PSG star as often as possible has been part of Morocco’s gameplan in Qatar and the 24-year-old clocked 54 passes against Spain in the Round of 16 – which made him their metric-leader by some distance.
With both Ruben Neves and Joao Cancelo likely to be handed watching briefs from the bench today, midfield metronome, William Carvalho, jumps off the page as a strong choice in the passing markets for Portugal.
The 30-year-old hit more passes than any of his teammates (60) against Switzerland last time out. Portugal had less possession in that game than their opponents in the Round of 16, though they should enjoy having a much greater share of the ball this afternoon.
That should bring stars like Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias back into play, both of whom pinged north of 60 passes in two previous starts in the group phase.