(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)
DOHA- These really are pinch-yourself times for Morocco: A first ever spot in the quarterfinals of a World Cup - the first to take place in the Arab world, no less - and now a meeting with Portugal and its superstar striker, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The nation is in uncharted territory after becoming only the fourth African country to reach the quarterfinals at soccer's biggest tournament, after Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010). None of them reached the semifinals. Morocco is also the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the last eight in Qatar.
Portugal doesn't appear to have such problems, with Santos' squad depth so impressive that he could afford to leave players like Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Neves on the bench against Switzerland after they started every group game.
Meanwhile, France will have to be on their toes when they face England in their World Cup quarter-final clash as their opponents have players capable of hurting them on the counter-attack and at set-pieces, coach Didier Deschamps said on Friday.
The teams have not met at a major tournament since they drew in the group stage of Euro 2012 but the focus has very much been on the game between two countries that share a sporting rivalry.
The spotlight has been on how forward Kylian Mbappe, the tournament's top scorer with five goals, will fare against the England defence, with Kyle Walker saying he would count on his experience of playing him in the past when they square up.
“I'm sure England will have prepared to face him but Kylian is in a position to make a difference,” Deschamps said.“Even in his last match he wasn't at his best, not in top form but still decisive (scoring twice in a 3-1 win against Poland). We have other players that can be dangerous as well.”
France won the World Cup with a stellar run in Russia four years ago but France skipper and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said it was the England squad that has more tournament experience than the reigning champions.“If we compare both sides, there were more English players here who were at the World Cup in Russia than France players,” Lloris added.
“Some of us play and train with the English players on a daily basis. If we can help our team mates with knowledge from playing with the clubs, we do,” Lloris said.
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