Ever since Morocco was paired in Group B with Iran, Portugal and Spain, it was clear that the first group game against Iran would be crucial. Morocco was very unlucky to lose that game, a draw or even a win by Morocco being fairer based on the chances of scoring seen in that match.
The loss leaves them in a very dire scenario they did not want to be in. According to Remiqz’ unique simulation tool, there is a very slim 2.3% that Morocco will progress to the knockout stage of the World Cup.
Even though a draw yields a very small statistical chance of going through as well, Morocco definitely needs to win against Portugal. Based on the players’ EPI of both countries, their chances of pulling this off are reasonable. Our model gives Portugal a 46% of winning, while a draw is at 31% and a Morocco win is at 23%.
Morocco played a lot more attacking than expected in their opener against Iran, in a fluid 4-3-3 that saw right-winger Nordin Amrabat deployed as a right back and midfielder Roman Saïss as a central defender. The midfield was stacked with technicians and manager Hervé Renard had clearly given Hakim Ziyech and Amine Harit (who played as wingers) a lot of freedom to come inside. It is a valid question to ask if there was too much freedom and not enough structure? At times, especially Ziyech seemed to look for spaces that were not there on the field.
Portugal will have gained a lot of confidence from their opener against Spain, which was easily the most fun game of the tournament and ended 3-3. Manager Fernando Santos’ team can be considered as one of the best counter-attacking sides in the tournament. Portugal doesn’t need to win and know they still have a game in hand against minnows Iran. It’s expected that they will choose a similar way of playing. And, there is of course Cristiano Ronaldo in great form.
Morocco will probably have more of the ball and try to break the Portuguese wall, while their opponents will be patiently waiting for counter-attacking opportunities. Whatever the tactical setups will be, the Moroccan team will probably be seen.
(Images by Pro Shots)