Morocco become real World Cup contenders

Portugal stymied by Morocco’s spectacular defensive solidity in Cristiano Ronaldo’s farewell to the World Cup.

Portugal stymied by Morocco

Looking to avoid another substandard result at this World Cup, Portugal were on a mission to eliminate Morocco in the quarterfinals.

Manager Fernando Santos kept Gonçalo Ramos among the starters in charge of attack and Cristiano Ronaldo again started on the bench, prompting a repeat of the image seen in the Round of 16, when photographers turned their backs on the starting line-up to register CR7.

Another new addition to Portugal’s starting line-up compared to the team that thrashed Switzerland was the presence of Ruben Neves. However, the biggest expectation was on Morocco’s line-up.

Aguerd and Mazraoui missed the Moroccan team due to injuries, affecting the first line of one of the best defensive systems in the history of World Cups. El Yamiq at centre-back and Attiat Allah at left back.

In addition, Morocco’s other first-choice defender (Saiss) was a cause for concern as he was sent off with a muscle problem, playing with a thigh guard. However, this did not affect Morocco’s performance.

In contrast to the spaces provided by Switzerland, Portugal again found it difficult to find space in the attacking box. Morocco, despite their lack of first line players, kept their aggression in the midfield line to take away spaces.

Amrabat, who played on the inside, and Ounahi, who played a great individual performance, were Morocco’s main attacking threat in the first half. Portugal, meanwhile, tried to force long passes with Rúben Neves and Bruno Fernandes, but to no avail.

Before the break, an incredible mistake by goalkeeper Diogo Costa facilitated a deserved goal for Morocco, who took advantage of their best moment in the match to look for the goal, building from triangulations between Hakimi, Ounahi and Ziyech on the right.

As soon as Boufal improved his performance, Morocco gained more acceleration, requiring Portugal to react with greater urgency in front of an extremely solid defence.

Portugal tried to respond in the second half with Rafael Leão at winger, João Cancelo at left back, Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty area and Vitinha to assist Bernardo Silva in distribution. Finally, Bruno Fernandes and João Félix advanced inside.

Manager Fernando Santos tried to reverse the negative scenario, but the Moroccan team responded with a solid 5-4-1. Portugal failed to look for play variations, followed without finding spaces and bet on crosses in the penalty area.

João Félix came very close to scoring, but on individual talent. Cristiano Ronaldo did not match when required, and Morocco once again surprised the world.

Morocco is a team of balance, alternating moments of attack and defence at the right times, making the correct reading of the game and understanding the situation needed to control the opponent. This perfect recipe makes Morocco deserve to dream of the World Cup title, and the competence of this work makes the goal possible.

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