Morocco are the feel-good story of the 2022 World Cup tournament so far. The Atlas Lions topped their group, the first African nation to do so in this century, and will be looking to upset their neighbors Spain in Tuesday’s round of 16 clash.
Meanwhile, Brazil are not holding anything back after scoring four first-half goals against South Korea to advance to the quarterfinals. The Selecao are one of the most entertaining teams to watch, providing football that’s easy on the eye with plenty of flair, individual talent and dance moves to celebrate.
Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed from Monday’s World Cup happenings, and a look ahead to Tuesday for what’s next.
Spain or Morocco?
Neighbors Spain and Morocco will meet in the round of 16 on Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. ET. Morocco surprised the world after winning their group and picking up as many points as England and Netherlands. That same group included Belgium and Croatia, and an emphatic win against the former showed everyone they mean business in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Luis Enrique’s side started the tournament with a 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica, but ended up drawing against Germany and losing against Japan. They had to settle for the runners-up spot, and will look to have learned from their mistakes against a Moroccan side in dreamland.
Spain’s midfield is arguably the best in the tournament, with the likes of veteran Sergio Busquets coupled with young stars Pedri and Gavi, all three hailing from Barcelona. They’ll look to control the game and beat their opponents with possession, movement and off-the-ball running. However, they have been criticized for their lack of a No. 9, which Enrique found fault with, saying Ferran Torres and Alvaro Morata are usually in that role.
– World Cup bracket: Spain, Morocco set up QF match
For Morocco, it is their fifth appearance at the World Cup. They’ve never made it past the quarterfinals stage, and a date with destiny is set for tomorrow. Although the odds are against them, head coach Walid Regragui said the team is “well-prepared” and that “we’ll do everything to win.” With team chemistry, leadership and cohesiveness, Morocco might have the perfect mix to keep on surprising.
Anything is possible in the World Cup.
James Olley details the key factor in Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in the World Cup round of 16.
Brazil put on sensational showing
Brazil’s performance against South Korea encapsulates everything about their football style. The passing, the trickery, the dancing. Even head coach Tite got involved after they scored their third in less than 30 minutes.
Neymar came back from injury to super charge the side into high gear and score a goal from the spot. He’s just one goal away from equalling Pele’s Brazil goal record. Vinicius Junior, Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta were among the other scorers, though there could have been more given the chances South Korea gave up.
And to make sure every member of their squad got minutes in the World Cup, Tite brought on third-choice goalkeeper Weverton at the 80th minute. Now everyone’s part of the party.
After the match, the players held a flag for Pele, who is currently in hospital after being admitted there last week as he battles colon cancer.
“I’ll watch the game from here at the hospital and I’ll be rooting for each one of you,” Pele said, and the boys delivered. Joga Bonito.
Today’s top reads
Booze cruise: What it’s like at Qatar’s ocean-liner-turned-hotel World Cup party spots
Fans from all over form a melting pot of World Cup fans, alcohol imbibers, partiers and tourists in Qatar’s docked ships being used as hotels.
Why Bruno Fernandes has been Portugal‘s best player at the World Cup
Bruno Fernandes was dropped for Portugal’s round-of-16 exit at the Euros. At the same stage of this World Cup, he’s been the team’s key player.
Morocco’s run to World Cup knockouts is no fluke; the secret is team spirit
Many didn’t expect Morocco to get through, but they will have a massive amount of support on the ground when they face Spain on Tuesday.
Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Daniel Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key tips on odds, options and futures. Here’s what we have for Tuesday’s matches.
Morocco (+525) vs. Spain (-170), Draw (+270)
Dalen Cuff: Spain has looked excellent for periods of this tournament and quixotically fragile in short bursts. That was evident in the game against Japan which saw them go from up 1-0 to down 2-1 in the span of minutes. I think they advance here, but they will be pushed and are susceptible to surrendering a goal to a good counter-attacking Moroccan side. I like both teams to score (+115).
Paul Carr: Dalen stole my play here. As we saw throughout the group stage, Spain will have a ton of the ball and be vulnerable on the counterattack. Both of those things are fine with Morocco. Spain have only allowed three goals in three games, which in line with their 2.7 expected goals against. That said, Spain are allowing the second-best shots in the tournament (0.16 xG/shot), so opponents are finding good chances on the break. Morocco will do that too.
Daniel Thomas: Spain have had such a strange world World Cup up to now and that makes this game very difficult to judge. I’ll take the draw after 90 minutes.
Portugal (-117) vs. Switzerland (+350), Draw (+235)
Cuff: Portugal has been better in this tournament than I anticipated. That said, the Swiss team got results both at last summer’s Euros and again in this tournament — particularly when they had to win or draw to advance against Serbia and came back from down 2-1 to win 3-2. This is essentially the same Swiss team that knocked out France in the Euros Round of 16 after being down 3-1 in the second half. I’m backing them to get a result in 90 minutes, double the chance (win/draw) at -107. Or, if you’re feeling aggressive, they are at +175 to advance.
Carr: Both of these teams have been more open than anticipated so far. Ten goals have been scored in Portugal’s three games and eight in Switzerland’s, with underlying numbers that aren’t far off. That’s why I like over 2.5 goals at +127. It’s always a risky bet in a knockout game, which could turn into a cagey 1-0 type of game, but I don’t think either team will go for that in this one.
Thomas: There are two good teams going head-to-head here. I agree it’s going to be tight. I like Portugal to go through on penalties (+850).
Ale Moreno reacts to Fernando Santos’ comments about him being unhappy with Cristiano Ronaldo.
News and notes
Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos blasted Cristiano Ronaldo‘s reaction to being subbed off in Friday’s group stage game against South Korea. The Portugal captain looked visibly frustrated when he was taken off in the second half of the 2-1 defeat, with cameras catching the 37-year-old appearing to say, “He’s in a rush to sub me.” Santos said he hadn’t seen the footage at first, but after watching it he said “I didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all. From there, it’s things you sort out internally. It was sorted out this way, and now we think about the game tomorrow. Everyone is focused on the game.” Santos then refused to confirm whether Ronaldo would be named in the team for the round-of-16 tie with Switzerland at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday — potentially his last game at a World Cup.
Didier Deschamps will ban his players from wearing jewelry, after saying Jules Kounde was “very lucky” to escape his anger for being told to remove a gold necklace during Sunday’s 3-1 win against Poland. The Barcelona defender Kounde was forced off the pitch when referee Jesus Valenzuela spotted the full-back’s gold chain on the outside of his shirt. “He [Kounde] shouldn’t have started the game with that on,” Deschamps said. “I don’t know what he has on the necklace, but I know he’s a bit superstitious and he wears it in training too.” The defending world champions will face England on Saturday with the two countries set to meet in a World Cup for the first time since the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
England’s Raheem Sterling has left England’s World Cup camp in Qatar and returned home after a break-in at his home. The 27-year-old Chelsea forward missed the 3-0 World Cup round-of-16 win over Senegal after finding out that his Surrey home was broken into on Saturday evening. The police statement said authorities were contacted Saturday night “after the occupants of the property came home and discovered a number of items including jewellery and watches had been stolen.” England captain Kane said, “Our thoughts are with him and his family. It’s a private matter, but it’s never easy to see one of your teammates and friends deal with something like that.”