Morocco Vs. Portugal World Cup Quarterfinal Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/10/22)

There’s nothing better than watching the success of a country that truly loves football, but hasn’t often been on top of the World’s game. This Saturday, we’re guaranteed to just see that, although at the expense of one nation’s dream, as Portugal seek just their second semifinal berth since 1966, and Morocco- already having advanced farther than ever before- are vying for their first-ever trip to World football’s final four. These two teams both play excellent team football, albeit with completely different styles, and I’m thrilled to see how it all plays out. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this fascinating quarterfinal matchup.

Morocco Vs. Portugal Odds

Portugal are a decent favorite to win in 90 minutes, with their line set at -150. Morocco are all the way up at +475, and the draw is +270. The goalscoring line is a tougher call, with under 2.5 the favorite at -140.

Morocco Vs. Portugal Prediction & Pick

From the beginning of the tournament, these were two of the teams I was most excited to watch. In my pre-tournament predictions, I even correctly picked Morocco to face Spain in the round of 16 and advance to the quarterfinals, where they now find themselves. I think it’s fair to say that they’ve been at their best, playing football exactly the way I had hoped and expected that they would. It’s been a defensive and managerial masterclass led by veteran centre-back Romain Saiss and manager Walid Reguagui- the first African manager to reach a quarterfinal. And the stars have shone brightly, as the return of Hakim Ziyech has been a major boost for the attack and fullback Achraf Hakimi is making his case as one of the very best players in the tournament.

Portugal, however, have arguably been far better, and surely slightly different than I had imagined them to be. They’ve been more explosive in the attack and perhaps a bit more shaky on the defensive end, but the biggest surprise has been the contributors. It seems that you couldn’t pay manager Fernando Santos to start Serie A MVP Rafael Leão, although the Milan speedster has picked up a couple of goals off of the bench. And of course, the main story has been Cristiano Ronaldo’s role, especially after he was benched in favor of the inexperienced Gonçalo Ramos who exploded onto the scene with a hat trick against the solid Switzerland side who Portugal demolished 6-1. After that performance, Ramos is obviously going to be a starter going forward, so it’ll be fascinating to see how Santos handles the unique position of having such a legendary player as Ronaldo who can still contribute, but not in the way he was able to even a couple years ago.

This match is one of the hardest to project, not necessarily in terms of the outcome- I love Morocco and have enormous respect for their run so far, but this one has to be Portugal. But the game script is an absolute nightmare to figure out. We’ve seen Portugal absolutely rip open other teams, and also concede some goals, but we’ve also seen Morocco masterfully neutralize opposing attacks without ever really holding possession- Spain had 77% of possession and 13 shots but turned that into 0.06 xGOT (expected goals on-target), 0 goals scored and even 0 penalties converted. I think Portugal will eventually get the winning breakthrough Spain never did, but Morocco will hang in there long enough to keep the scoring total under 2.5.

Key Matchups

Portugal Attack vs. Morocco Defense

Before the start of this World Cup, we already knew that Portugal had the potential to be one of the best attacking sides in this World Cup, but their explosive quarterfinal showing against a very competent Switzerland team further solidified that notion. Ramos was of course the man of the moment, bagging that hat trick and an additional assist in a tidy 74-minute showing. He put on a finishing clinic, as he turned 1.47 xG worth of chances into 3.23 xGOT with his precise shooting. His fellow striker João Félix has also been excellent, as he seems liberated and rejuvenated outside of the archaic Atletico Madrid system. He’s been visually thrilling to watch, and poured in a pair of assists on Ramos goals against Switzerland. Bruno Fernandes has also far exceeded his club form, he’s played at both his customary CAM position and on the wing, and has chipped in a couple of goals and 3 assists as well. Of course, the notable exclusions of Ronaldo and Leão from the lineup means that Portugal also have perhaps the best bench attacking options of any team in the tournament- if you were an opponent, would you want to see those two trotting out with fresh legs in the 70th minute of a tied match?

Meanwhile, they’ll be facing a squad whose defense has put up probably the best tournament-long performance of any position group so far. They’ve allowed just one goal throughout four games- one of which went 120 minutes- and that one was an own goal while they were up 2-0 and had already just about qualified for the knockout stages. As I mentioned earlier, the Spain match was an absolute masterclass, as they gave the Spanish attack absolutely no room to create any chances in over 90 minutes of possession. The back four in that contest will all but certainly be the same group that faces Portugal/ West Ham’s Naif Aguerd joins veteran captain Romain Saiss in central defense, these are not the two biggest names at the World Cup but I defy you to name a defensive pair who have actually performed better so far. The fullbacks are an excellent and much more fun to watch, group, Noussair Mazraoui of Bayern is becoming something of a rising star due in part to his exceptional play in this tournament, and Achraf Hakimi is becoming a fringe, but legitimate contender for the Golden Ball if Morocco can advance through this match. The lightning-fast and versatile PSG man has been one of the best defenders in the tournament, but also incredibly valuable coming forward for a Morocco team that doesn’t have as much strength in attack as it does in the back. Portugal is going to have a tough time getting through this group, but if they once again get frustrated and sloppy, these defenders could be the ones to seize an open opportunity to turn the game around and hurt them on the other end.

The Midfield Battle

Portugal’s defense has been porous at times, it’s possibly the worst left in the tournament. Rather than praying for them to hold up against a sometimes lukewarm but talented and opportunistic Morocco front line is not a recipe for success. So, let’s talk about how the Portuguese midfield can hold up play enough to limit the team’s reliance on the defense, and provide ample opportunities for the attack against that stout Moroccan defense. Fernandes is at the top of the midfield four, although we’ve already discussed him as the quasi-attacker he is; he’s really independent, the link between the two groups. The three central midfielders are an interesting group though, veterans of some major European sides. They’re headlined by Man City’s Bernardo Silva, one of the best, most perpetually-underrated, and most versatile players on the planet, who hasn’t shone his brightest in this tournament but is often transcendent for his country. He’s joined by Otávio, who plays for domestic side Porto, and in the middle anchoring the whole group is William Carvalho, now of Real Betis. This group hasn’t done the best job of consistently winning and holding possession, but they’ve been able to create ample chances. Their challenge against Morocco will be to put it all together and play a consistent 90 (or 120, if duty calls) minutes.

The Morocco midfield, even more so than their defense, was relatively unheralded coming into this tournament, but has really earned the admiration of football fans worldwide. There aren’t big names, but there have certainly been some big performances. Most of the time, it’s been the same three players putting in great shifts in this tournament. On the left has been Selim Amallah, who plays in the Belgium league and contributed evenly between winning possession and making some solid passes. On the far side from him is Azzedine Ounahi of Ligue Un side Angers, whose progressive passing has been invaluable thus far. And in the middle has been one of the tournament’s surprise stars so far, Fiorentina man Sofyan Amrabat, who absolutely captivated the World with his masterclass against Spain, throughout which he seemed to be everywhere on the pitch at once, doing absolutely everything to will his side into the penalty shootout. They’ve been supplemented at times by a very solid bench option in Sampdoria’s Abdelhamid Sabiri, who provides an excellent spark amidst weary legs, which will be especially needed if Morocco are going to keep playing a full 120’. This group isn’t full of superstars, but they play together well and have every ability to give their country the opportunities they need to stay in this match.

From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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