In a competition that has seen its fair share of upsets, including both Belgium and Germany not progressing past the group stages and Morocco knocking out Spain with an unbelievable penalty shoot-out, the Portuguese team are hoping to grab the headlines for all the right reasons on Saturday, 10 December.
Portugal managed to storm their way to the quarter-finals with an emphatic win over Switzerland on 6 November, which saw the team beat the Swiss 6-1 with three goals from Gonçalo Ramos, one from Pepe, one from Raphaël Guerreiro, and another from Rafael Leão, while Akanji scored for the Swiss.
Before the game, the focus was firmly on Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been benched for the game by manager Fernando Santos, who told reporters that his decision to not play Ronaldo from the off was “strategic”.
“[I'm looking for] a team that has five players with great ease up front to create spaces to play. A balanced team, but with great resourcefulness”, stressed the coach, in a brief interview given to RTP.
The 37-year-old striker was left out of the starting line-up a day after Santos said he didn't like Cristiano's attitude when he was replaced in the defeat against South Korea (1-2), with many linking this to the decision.
“Nothing is connected. That matter was closed and forgotten. It is a strategic option. We had been preparing for a few days and it was a strategic issue for this game. Different looks and different moves, but nothing more than that,” he added.
“He is an exemplary professional and, if he has a part in a game, he will definitely help Portugal”, stressed Fernando Santos.
After the win commentators remarked on the striker, who has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, leaving the pitch ahead of his teammates after the final whistle, however, Ronaldo did not comment on this and instead shared his delight at the win with his 507 million fans of Instagram: "Amazing day for Portugal, with a historic result in the biggest contest in world soccer. Luxury exhibition by a team full of talent and youth. Congratulations to our national team. The dream is alive! To the very end! Go Portugal!"
Praise from the PM
Prime Minister António Costa, who attended the game against Switzerland in Lusail, also shared his praise of the national team for making it so far in the competition.
The team put on a “great football spectacle”, he said. “But most important of all was the great spectacle that the selection provided to all those who enjoy football. More than the goals, it was the collective sense, the joy and pleasure that the players had in playing. I think it was a great night for all of us. I hope that the next ones will be like this.
“It was an extraordinary game. We are all very moved by what the team did, not only because of the result but because of the way they played and because of the will and confidence that they gave us all for the next games”, said António Costa.
Now all eyes are firmly on the next game against Morocco on Saturday, 10 December at 3pm. If the team manages to beat their North African opponents then it will be either England or France who they will meet in the semi-finals.
Whatever the result on Saturday, Portugal has still secured their third-best performance in a World Cup, repeating their achievements in 1966 and 2006.