Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha, 8.30 pm (IST)
Average age: Morocco: 27; Portugal: 27.5
Average height: Morocco: 5’9”; Portugal: 5’9”
Likely starting 11:
Bounou, Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Amrabat, Amallah, Ounahi, Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal.
Costa, Dalot, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Otavio; Silva, Fernandes, Felix; Ramos.
Defining area: Midfield battle
When Portugal are trying to set up an attack, their no-nonsense midfielder William Carvalho usually drops in between the two central defenders to form a back 3, whilst the two full-backs push higher up the pitch. Morocco are unlikely to press high, although may do so from goal kicks or throw-ins in the 1st third.
The increased number of technically sound players has allowed Portugal to be very reliable in possession, and difficult to mark due to the frequent rotations. During these rotations, a player in the line of the midfield four will play the ball forward and make a penetrative run, to stretch the opposition team vertically, while either Bruno Fernandes or Joao Felix are comfortable with dropping in deeper into the midfield to thwart any potential press from the opposition.
As the two players swap positions, it gets harder to figure out who should mark who, and gaps open up for the Portugal players to exploit.
During the build-up, Morocco will attempt to play out from the back. Using a 4-3-3, Morocco make the most of their highly technical backline to help them retain the ball and move up the pitch. At the base of the midfield, Amrabat is extremely comfortable on the ball and can turn either way to evade pressure. They will look to attract pressure in central areas, before moving the ball to a fullback who can carry it up the pitch.
Key Battle: Achraf Hakimi vs Bernardo Silva
Achraf Hakimi is definitely one of the most exciting full-backs. Of course, his Panenka against Spain was the stuff of legends. Bernardo Silva has remained the constant architect of attacks for his club Manchester City or Portugal.
Silva was the orchestrator of a myriad of attacks in Portugal’s 6-1 thumping of Switzerland in the Round of 16, making marauding runs along the flanks. If Morocco want to become the first African team to enter the semifinal of a FIFA World Cup, it’s imperative that Hakimi keeps Silva quiet throughout the match.