Morocco beat Spain on penalties (0-0) on Tuesday to secure a historic quarter-final match at the 2022 World Cup where they will face Portugal, who swept Switzerland (6-1) and proved that there can be life and joy without Cristiano Ronaldo.
The two teams, who face each other on Saturday, are the only ones in the top eight who have never reached a World Cup final. England and France also on Sunday, and the day before, the Netherlands, Argentina, Croatia and Brazil completed the final table.
By leaving Spain, Morocco, enthusiastic since the start of the tournament, avoids repeating the scenarios of 2018 or 2006, when the quarter-finals turned into a duel between Europe and South America.
This success will calm the old demons of the biggest Moroccan fans and the shock of elimination at the same stage of the competition in 1986, with a long free kick from Germany’s Lothar Matthaus at the end of the match.
This time it was Pablo Sarabia who could have taken on the role of executioner but his recovery at the far post in the last moments missed the frame with one touch, hitting the post of goalkeeper Yassine Bono, nicknamed “Bono”.
During the penalty shootout, the Sevilla goalkeeper stopped attempts by Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets, while Sarabia, the first scorer, touched the post.
” The PenaltiesIt’s a bit of a hunch, a bit of luck,” explained the goalkeeper after the match, praising his team-mates who “did the job” for 120 minutes.
The first trilogy
If anyone else has ‘done the job’ it’s Gonzalo Ramos. Before this meeting, the young striker from Benfica Lisbon was given … 30 minutes of selection.
However, it was he who was chosen by coach Fernando Ramos instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, the decidedly outgoing legend, and unconvincing in the group stage.
A choice he could have heavily blamed for the failure against so far mighty Switzerland. But Ramos’ hat-trick (the first in the tournament) and the smoothness of the Portuguese game without the idol proved him right.
Entering the match in place of his young partner, Ronaldo, 37, he immediately retrieved his armband, which Pepe had stretched out, for 195e Picks for a unit of world record that he will undoubtedly equal against Morocco.
But it will undoubtedly be one of the last he will add to his long collection as this World Cup increasingly takes on the appearance of the end of an era for Portugal and the beginning of the twilight of ‘CR7’, whose goal was logically canceled out for offside.
News from Pele
This is not as terrible news as Portuguese fans might have thought just a few weeks ago as their team has shone without the one who dominated the Seleçao for so long.
In addition to being crowned supreme, the challenge for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, the 2016 European champions, is now to nail his exit with Portugal after the fiasco of his second stay at Manchester United. While he is waiting, perhaps, to succumb to the lucrative siren of Al-Nasr, who, according to officials of the Saudi club, has begun negotiations with him.
As for Switzerland, it is out of the competition for the fourth time at this stage after 2006, 2014 and 2018… and has not returned to the quarter-finals since the 1954 World Cup, when the tournament hosted sixteen teams.
During a relaxing day the day after the easy qualification against South Korea (4-1), the Brazilians received reassuring news from Pele, who is battling colon cancer and whose health is “gradually improving,” according to his hospital.