Will Morocco continue its surprising run to the final four of the 2022 World Cup, or will Portugal — with or without Cristiano Ronaldo in the lineup — take another step closer to the country's first World Cup title?
Morocco, playing in the World Cup for the sixth time, is in the quarterfinals for the first time after winning Group F. The Atlas Lions won two matches and played to a draw in another during group play, then beat 2010 World Cup champion Spain in penalty kicks after playing to a scoreless draw in the round of 16.
Portugal won two matches and lost one to win Group H, then beat Switzerland 6-1 in the round of 16. Portugal's best World Cup showing was in 2006 when The Selection of the Shields finished fourth.
While Portugal advanced to the final eight, controversy has surrounded the team and Ronaldo after he was benched for the match against Switzerland, ending his streak of 18 consecutive World Cup starts.
The benching continued a run of bad news for Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner whose contract with Manchester United was terminated on Nov. 22.
Here's how to bet the Morocco-Portugal match, from the moneyline, draw, Over/Under total odds and expert pick (odds via FOX Bet).
Portugal vs. Switzerland recap
Maurice Edu, Kate Abdo and Chad Ochocinco react to Portugal's win over Switzerland
Pick via FOX Sports Betting Analyst Jason McIntyre:
Morocco just picked up the greatest win in the country’s history, a stirring penalty kick (PK) triumph over Spain. Its strategy worked to perfection: Hunker down defensively for the final 45 minutes and both overtimes, let Spain pass the ball around, and get to PKs. The celebrations will be raging from Marrakesh to Casablanca for days.
How will the players respond to an exhausting win like that? Portugal, meanwhile, drubbed Switzerland 6-1 on the strength of a hat trick by Goncalo Ramos. Who’s that? He’s the 21 year old who was tapped to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting lineup. Portugal was thought to be an "in-between" team with veterans like 39-year-old Pepe and 37-year-old Ronaldo, while also possessing budding 23-year-old stars like Rafael Leao and Joao Felix.
The benching of Ronaldo by Fernando Santos carried huge risk but paid off big-time, as now Morocco must game plan for the new version of Portugal. And Ronaldo only playing 30 minutes against Switzerland means he’s going to be fresh for the Morocco defense — one that played 120 minutes chasing Spain around the pitch.
Interestingly, Portugal has only trailed for a whopping five minutes through four games, so we haven’t seen that squad battle adversity. Morocco’s defensive run, led by goalie Yassine Bounou ("Bono") and ace defender Achraf Hakimi of Paris Saint-Germain, has permitted one goal in four games and kept Croatia, Belgium and Spain off the scoreboard.
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