Morocco will set sight on becoming the first-ever African nation to make it to the World Cup semifinals when they play Portugal in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
The Atlas Lions come on the back of a remarkable penalty shootout win over Spain in the round of 16.
Portugal will also be confident going into the tie since they hammered Switzerland 6-1 in the previous stage to make their first World Cup quarterfinal appearance since 2006.
Morocco produced another commendable display to prolong their stay in the World Cup. Spain had most of the possession, but both teams could have won the tie in regular time had they taken their chances.
Walid Regragui’s men settled the tie on penalties as Yassine Bounou did not let a single Spanish penalty get past him.
For the first time in 12 years, an African team will remain standing in the last eight of the World Cup.
Morocco were the first African team to win their group when they did it in 1986.
Thirty-six years later, they are on the brink of making history again.
If they see off Portugal at Al Thumama, they will set foot on unchartered territories as an African side.
Morocco have been one of the best defensive units we have seen in Qatar, but now, they are about to face one of the tournament’s finest attacking sides.
Portugal head coach Fernando Santos made headlines before the kickoff against Switzerland as he kept Cristiano Ronaldo out of the starting XI.
The Portuguese superstar sat on the Portugal bench for the first time since 2004, but that did not stop Seleção das Quinas from cruising to a 6-1 victory.
Switzerland are not a weakling in international football by any means. So, it was a statement victory for the Portuguese.
The 2016 European champions are yet to draw a blank in Qatar and have an unbelievable return of 12 goals in four matches.
But they would know that they face a stern test on Saturday, as Morocco have conceded only once in this tournament so far.
Cristiano Ronaldo might have to sit on the bench once again as Santos will prefer to field an unchanged XI.
João Cancelo was another notable omission from the lineup. Cancelo’s Manchester rival Diogo Dalot should get the nod at right-back. Pepe should get another start at the heart of Portugal’s defence besides Rúben Dias since Danilo is yet to return to full fitness.
Walid Regragui is sweating over several fitness concerns at the Morocco camp.
Centre-back Nayef Aguerd is a big doubt ahead of the match.
Romain Saïss had to wear ankle protection to finish the match against Spain. Sofyan Amrabat, who was omnipresent in the midfield against Spain, is also struggling with a back problem.
Morocco have put in severe effort in their recent matches and it has started to show on their squad.
Several key players in defence are coping with fitness issues. This could play in Portugal’s favour.
We are expecting Portugal to nick a 1-0 win.
Date: 10 December
Kickoff: 8:30 PM
Venue: Al Thumama Stadium