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World Cup 2022 Daily Preview: Morocco/Portugal and England/France Wrap Up the Quarterfinals

Can Morocco’s momentum carry them forward, and who wins the rematch of the 100-Year War?

Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-England at USA Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, rest in peace Grant Wahl. Your life and work has been a bright spot for many, both in and out of soccer circles. Y’all take a moment and send up prayers and thoughts for his family; he’s gone far too soon.

Day one of the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup is in the books, and in no way could anyone describe it as uneventful. Disappointing if you’re a Brazil or Netherlands fan - absolutely - but the first set of matches in this round will go down as some of the most memorable, albeit wild, games of any World Cup.

A prime day two on December 9th is now set to kick off, highlighted by a surging Morocco team squaring off against a Portugal side that seems to have found its way without Ronaldo, followed by a clash of titans when stoic England faces France. If these matches offer half of what the first set of quarterfinal matches did, fans are in for a continued treat.

Let’s dive into the details:

Morocco vs Portugal — 10:00 a.m.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

Admittedly, not many people would’ve guessed Morocco would put on the show they have thus far, but the remnants of Spain’s tournament hopes are still thick in the air after the North African nation frustrated them into oblivion. The Moroccan defense simply refuses to give up much of anything. Meanwhile, in the theme of never betting on anything in this World Cup, who saw Portugal having one of the stronger showings of the tournament...where Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t start? This matchup initially feels like it’s going to be a battle of attrition, but a particular Portuguese player named Gonçalo Ramos is coming off the first, and only, hat trick of the tournament so far. Morocco may be able to hold him off for the initial run, but as legs get tired, can they pull off the same magic against Ronaldo?

Player to Watch: Gonçalo Ramos

Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-Portugal at Uruguay Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the Portugal vs Switzerland match was Ronaldo being left out of the starting XI in favor of Gonçalo Ramos, but the new starter took his opportunity and absolutely flew. The Benfica forward found the back of the net three times in his previous match, completely taking everyone by surprise, so conventional wisdom would say “stick with the hot hand.” Morocco’s defense is a different beast entirely, but the momentum from a World Cup hat trick can work its own set of wonders.

England vs France — 2 p.m.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

Between the drama of Brazil being ousted by Croatia and then Argentina pulling off a nail biter against the Netherlands, it’s easy to forget that two giants are preparing to come to blows. England and France have faced off in two prior World Cup matches, with England taking the spoils of both. France, however, is probably the most complete team left in this entire tournament, and the English are going to have to find a way to deal with Kylian Mbappe and crew if they wish to keep their hopes alive. For what it’s worth, England has a ton of goal scorers in the World Cup thus far so they don’t need to rely on Harry Kane to make all the difference in this one, but fully expect their right side (France’s left) to be a hotbed of activity on both sides of the ball. Mbappe will be looking to exploit as much space as possible, while England will likely commit bodies to help shut him down. This’ll leave the midfield and opposite wing with plenty of space, so don’t count out a significant number of goals in a game that might, at face value, seem like a stalemate. I could write a full article on the tactical nuances of this game, but that matchup is absolutely the main one to keep an eye on.

Player to Watch: Bukayo Saka

England World Cup 2022 Training Session Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Bukayo Saka is an easy guy to cheer for. He’s had a great tournament already, scoring a brace in the opening match against Iran and another goal against Senegal in the round of 16, and he’s simply a nice kid. However, he, along with Jude Bellingham, will have their hands full with Kylian Mbappe and a myriad of other French talent, so the nice guy persona has to disappear for a bit. Saka is one of the most promising young stars in the sport, and this is a chance for him to prove it against some of the best in the world.