The last day of the Round of 16 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup has potential to be the tightest we’ve seen so far.
Both matchups feature a high-profile team from the Iberian Peninsula against a less-heralded opponent who has punched above their weight in Qatar.
So how should you approach Tuesday’s contests? Read on for the details, plus be sure to check out FanDuel Sportsbook for the latest World Cup odds and more!
Morocco (+330 to advance) vs. Spain (-440)
Education City Stadium | Al Rayyan, Qatar | 10am ET
For the second World Cup running, Morocco and Spain find themselves pitted against each other on the global game’s biggest stage with everything at stake.
Four years ago in Russia, the two met in the final match of the group stage and played out a memorable 2-2 draw. On that occasion, the Atlas Lions scored what seemed to be the game-winner in the 81st minute, only for Iago Aspas to equalize in stoppage time to secure passage to the knockouts for the Spanish at the North Africans’ expense.
Some things have changed since that match in Kaliningrad — only Sergio Busquets remains in the picture from La Roja’s starting XI that night, while Morocco have had three different managers take charge in the years since — but much still remains the same, chiefly the style of how these two countries play.
Just as Spain have done for the last 15 years, this version of Luis Enrique’s side has lapped the field when it comes to keeping the ball.
They’re tops in pass completion percentage (91%), passes completed (nearly 800 per match) and time of possession (77%, a whopping 10 percentage points more than any other side), and while the scoring has dried up a bit since their seven-goal outburst against Costa Rica on Matchday 1, they have at least shown they’re capable of the cutting edge they’ve sometimes lacked.
Morocco, meanwhile, feature much of the same personnel from that group stage meeting in 2018, but this isn’t an aging team by any stretch. In fact, they’re the fifth-youngest in the field, and their two biggest stars — Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and PSG’s Achraf Hakimi — are very much in their prime.
Behind newly-appointed manager Walid Regragui — who only took the job in August — the Atlas Lions have been one of the standout teams in the tournament so far, engineering wins over Belgium and Canada after drawing with quarterfinalists Croatia to top Group F.
And while they’ve averaged over a goal per game, it’s been Morocco’s defense that’s gotten the job done in Qatar. They’ve conceded just once through three matches and have allowed the sixth fewest shots per game (6.7) while ranking top-four in tackles and interceptions.
Notably, with an average possession percentage of 36.5%, Morocco have been happy to let their opposition have the ball in this tournament, meaning both teams will be in their comfort zone in Al Rayyan come Tuesday night.
But if we’re in for another rollercoaster like we had four years ago, no one on the pitch will be comfortable for 90 minutes or more…though the neutrals watching could be in for a treat.
Going Deeper: In a bit of a surprise, numberFire’s projections have Spain’s win probability at a staggering 84%, the highest total we’ve seen in the knockout stage so far. As always, analytics love La Roja.
Call To Action: While Spain lifted the trophy 12 years ago in South Africa, Morocco have yet to reach the quarterfinal stage of a World Cup. But despite what history and the projections say, this feels like the Atlas Lions’ moment against a team they matchup well against and have tasted success against before. They’ve been better than Spain at this tournament but still find themselves the underdogs, so take the value of getting Morocco to advance and don’t look back.
Portugal (-245 to advance) vs. Switzerland (+194)
Lusail Stadium | Lusail, Qatar | 2pm ET
While Morocco and Spain have some recent history on the pitch, it’s nothing compared to Portugal v. Switzerland.
Since 2016, these two European sides have met five times in competitive fixtures, and while the Iberians hold a 3-2 edge in the recent series — including a 4-0 UEFA Nations League shellacking in Lisbon this past June — the Swiss actually won 1-0 the last time they faced off and hold the all-time head-to-head lead.
Interestingly, both had similar group stages, as each won a 3-2 shootout, each came out on top in matches that could’ve gone either way, and each lost by a goal.
And as long as you throw out the Swiss’ bus-parking efforts against Brazil in a 1-0 loss, both have had similar offensive and defensive xG numbers throughout, with each putting up at least 1.3 xG in five of their six matches and an average xG against of 1.3 for Portugal and 1.0 for Switzerland.
Stylistically, this contest should look similar to the first match we’ll see in Qatar on Tuesday, with one side having the ball and the other attempting to hit back on the counter.
The 2016 European champions have posted great possessions numbers this month — 61%, 4th most at this tournament — compared to 47% for the Swiss, but possession doesn’t equal results, as Portugal found out on Matchday 3 against South Korea.
If Murat Yakin’s group can replicate that type of effort, the upset could be on, just as it was in Geneva this summer.
But the fear for the Swiss is their opposition have so many players who can unlock a defense, and while Cristiano Ronaldo might not be necessarily in that group anymore, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix and others certainly are.
In other words, it would be a surprise if the squad from the Alps can make it two wins in a row over their rivals on the other side of the Pyrenees.
Going Deeper: numberFire’s projections give Portugal a 66% chance to advance. If they do, it’d be the first time the Iberians would move beyond the Round of 16 since 2006 — and just the third time in their history.
Call To Action: Despite their offensive explosion against a porous Serbia on Matchday 3, there’s little evidence that the Swiss are capable of denting this Portuguese backline much. So if you’re feeling the upset, back a low-scoring affair, with Switzerland to win 1-0 (+1000) a decent longshot option. If you prefer to roll with the favorites, the correct score combination of 1-0, 2-0, or 3-0 to Portugal (+210) would provide more value than taking them straight up.