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Morocco go- into Saturday’s quarter- final game against Portugal at the Al Thumama Stadium after beating former World Champion Spain 3-0 on penalties at the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The only African team left in the tournament after elimination of Senegal. Cameroon, Tunisia and Ghana. The Moroccan team obviously has got quite a good number of differences compared to other African teams that have been sent home.

First is the impenetrable defense of the Atlas Lions and counting, the solid heart of not conceding cheap goals, especially on penalties. This is already being discussed by pundits that Morocco’s side could land in the semi-final considering their rating before the star studded Spaniard game which they won on penalties. Surprisingly, Luis Enrique’s side attempted just a shot in the first 45 minutes.

Although Gavi and Torres had impressively had the ball in the midfield keeping a larger percentage of possession, the man marking of the Morocco’s players was near excellent. Expectedly, against the coach Fernando Santos side that has Christiano Ronaldo who could start from the bench. The Moroccan might play decently in defense and create space for offensive play through a patiently crafted pattern in midfield.

Walid Regragui’s team against Santos side, obviously will be an interesting encounter and Portugal can only edge the African team in-front through mistakes. This almost occurred in the match against Spain half way in the opening half of the game Ferran Torres was flagged off-side, obviously for a few seconds of lack of concentration.  But with both sides having similar playing patterns using the wings and patiently defensively waiting for an opening for a fast counter attack, to break their opponent. One could predict the match for a 50-50 in the playing time of 90 minutes.

Moroccan just like an average African team outside the Super Eagles of Nigeria, most times waste opportunities from a perfect build-up for counter attack, finishing well with a goal is usually a problem. Ghana, Senegal, even the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon that defeated Brazil in their last group match had similar difficulties in their opening group games at the tournament.

Another is the mentality going into the quarter- final game against an experienced Portuguese team. Expectedly, the former Wydad Casablanca boss must ensure his side is psychologically ready for the battle just like they did against the Spaniard. They were brilliant against Luis Enrique’s side having not been carried away by the euphoria of their achievements before the match.

Walid Regragui can only surpass the achievements of Cameroon in (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) as African teams that have reached the last eight at the World Cup by advancing to the semi- final. The team must remain focused ahead of the clash and not the party before the game but party after a win.  Walid who took charge in August knows the tasks ahead!

Although, the Atlas Lions go into the match as the underdog compare to Portugal just like the Selecao has star studded side with the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva, talented young Joao Felix, Diogo Dalot and Benfica forward Gunzalo Ramos who is currently among the top scorers in Portuguese’s League, he also netted hat-trick in their 6-1 dismantling of Switzerland.

The Morocco side defensively were almost perfect with brilliant saves from goalkeeper Yassinne Bounou. The team has also gained confidence improving from every game since the tournament started in Qatar with the likes of Ardchraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat, Walid Cheddira and Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech all fit for the encounter. A win for Morocco will put the country on record as the first Africa team to play in the semi- final of the FIFA World Cup.

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