Analysis: Four things to look out for on Saturday at World Cup

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French striker Kylian Mbappe

Xinhua News

9th December 2022 – (Doha) The second two quarterfinals in the World Cup see reigning champions France take on England, while Portugal play Morocco. Here are some things to look out for as the tournament continues in Qatar.

1. Mbappe (and others)

As expected, much of the talk before the game has centered on the threat caused by French striker Kylian Mbappe, but France is much more than just one player. Olivier Giroud, the top scoring Frenchman ever, leads the attack, while Ousmane Dembele and his pace are a huge threat down the right and Antoine Griezmann has intelligently altered his game to take part in creation.

If England only focuses on Mbappe, they are still going to be in trouble.

2. Set pieces a potent weapon for England.

England has shown they have players to move the ball quickly and exploit any spaces their rivals leave them. They have scored 12 goals in this World Cup for a reason, and that reason is that they too are excellent in attack.

However, although they are rapid in their transitions, England is also dangerous from free kicks and corners, where players such as Harry Maguire, John Stones, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane all over big threats from crosses.

France keeper Hugo Lloris is a great shot-stopper, but is perhaps a bit weak in the air, and England will look to test that on Saturday night.

3. No Ronaldo – no problem

Portugal coach Fernando Santos made a difficult but correct decision in the last 16 when he left Cristiano Ronaldo on the subs’ bench and then enjoyed a 6-1 win over Switzerland, with Ronaldo’s replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scoring a hat-trick.

The Portuguese Football Federation was forced afterwards to deny stories that Ronaldo had threatened to abandon the World Cup after being dropped, but Santos was completely vindicated in his decision.

Ramos has to start against Morocco and his movement will be more effective against a packed defense than the more static Ronaldo, and if Ronaldo can’t accept that, then sadly, he won’t be missed.

4. More of the same from Morocco

There were wild celebrations as Morocco knocked out Spain to book their place in the quarterfinals, but they will find things harder against Portugal. The Portuguese enjoy possession like Spain, but in players such as Joao Felix, Ramos and Rafael Leao, they have more movement and direct play in attack.

It also remains to be seen how the 120 minutes of intense physical and mental effort against Spain have left the Moroccan legs, and coach Walid Regragui has several players, such as Nayef Aguerd, with physical issues that could sideline them.

One thing that is certain is that Morocco will once again count on the support of most of the fans in the stadium and the atmosphere will be electric.

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