By Inaki Dufour
Doha, December 9 (EFE).- Around the Portuguese striker, the maelstrom in which everything that happens around him moves every day, Portugal is closing ranks. “Leave Ronaldo alone,” asked Fernando Santos, his coach, this Friday in a press conference on the eve of the most important duel of a World Cup for Portugal since 2006, the last time he went to- beyond the quarter-finals, while finishing in fourth position, when CR7 made its debut in the tournament.
“Cristiano never told me he wanted to leave”, remarked the coach to settle the affair that marked the last hours, after the newspaper ‘Record’ assured that Cristiano had threatened to leave when he learned of his replacement in the round of 16. Final of 16 games against Switzerland.
Cristiano has always been in the World Cup spotlight. First for his words to force his departure from Manchester United; then because he is the only player in history to have scored goals in five World Cups, with the penalty he scored against Ghana on the first day; later in case Bruno Fernandes’ goal against Uruguay was his or not; then because of the debate on its ownership transferred to public opinion; a week ago for Fernando Santos’ gesture after the 2-1 defeat against South Korea that the coach didn’t like “nothing”; last Tuesday for his replacement against Switzerland; Wednesday because he trained in the gym and Thursday because of the aforementioned news, denied by the Portuguese Federation.
Will he start against Morocco? This is the mystery of the Portuguese team, which insists on its unity in the last hours and isolates itself from everything, as it awaits the playing field and a unique opportunity, reaffirmed as it did with the 6-1 which she overflowed. in Switzerland in the round of 16, when Gonçalo Ramos scored three of the six goals and when Cristiano Ronaldo was in reserve.
Between one and the other is the position of striker this Saturday, supported by Joao Félix, while his departure from Atlético is already on the table, although he does not talk about it, and Bruno Fernandes , whose ingenuity and precision value the selection, with his intervention in five goals, three as a passer and two as a scorer.
Ruben Dias is the doubt. If the central defender is not ready, his place would be for Antonio Silva, alongside Pepe, with the possible return of Joao Cancelo and Ruben Neves in the line-up and with the yellow cards still on alert: Joao Félix, Ruben Dias , Ruben Neves and Bruno Fernandes are warned. Danilo Pereira too, but he is injured and excluded from the World Cup, like Nuno Mendes, who has regained the discipline of Paris Saint Germain for his convalescence. These are the two victims of Fernando Santos.
Otavio, who reappeared as a starter against Switzerland, is now available as Portugal reassert themselves as contenders, 16 years after their last quarter-finals and semi-finals, when they finished fourth at Germany 2006. Their limit is the third place in England 1966, when their vision goes much further, towards the gold cup that everyone admires, to the maximum, whenever possible before beating Morocco and Yassine Bono, the hero of the pass against the Spain, which arouses admiration at the 2022 World Cup.
Morocco accepts the challenge. I had never gone so far in a World Cup. Their greatest achievement was Mexico 1986, in the round of 16, then eliminated in the 88th minute by a goal from Lothar Matthäus. The penalty shootout victory over Spain, with an impressive effort, capable of beating a heavy favorite, which they appeased from start to finish, as they did before going top of the group against Croatia , Belgium and Canada, launched them to an unreachable height in its past.
But he wants more. Not satisfied yet. His feat, so celebrated by his fans and footballers, now takes on a new dimension against Portugal, between exhaustion and the expressive sacrifice of 120 minutes against Spain (he played half an hour more than his opponent) with only three days of recovery, which warns and physically conditions several of its players, one especially: Nayef Aguerd, injured against Spain and in doubt against Portugal. If he is not in condition, his position will fall to Valladolid central defender Jawad El Yamiq.
In the reencuentro de Rusia 2018, when Portugal won 1-0 to Marruecos, con el gol de la victoria de Cristiano Ronaldo, hay más jugadores que arrastran molestias desde el último partido e incluso desde antes, pero a los que se espera sobre el Country. To Romain Saiss, Sofyan Amrabat, Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi, Azzedine Ounahi (the ‘8’ who surprised Luis Enrique Martínez in a duel last Tuesday), Youseff En Nesyri and Sofiane Boufal, seven of the eleven holders of the round of 16 – eight with Aguerd- by Walid Regragui, who intends to make history even more against Portugal. In Morocco and Africa.
Neither she nor any team from the continent have ever reached the semi-finals. The limit is the quarter-finals that Cameroon reached in 1990 with goals from Roger Milla, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. In Qatar 2022, they are looking for the penultimate stage towards the final.
Portugal, the most effective attack (two goals for three shots between the three sticks) or Morocco, the best defense of the tournament, with only one goal conceded, are expected by France or England.
Morocco: Bond; Achraf, El Yamiq or Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Amrabat, Ounahi, Amallah; Ziyech, En Nesyri and Boufal.
Portugal: Diogo Costa; I cancel, Ruben Dias or Antonio Silva, Pepe, Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva; Joao Félix, Cristiano or even Gonçalo Ramos and Bruno Fernandes.
Referee: Facundo Tello (Argentina).
Stadium: Al Thumama.
Time: 6:00 p.m. local time, 4:00 p.m. Spanish time, 3:00 p.m. GMT.