Portugal take on Morocco as the European champions look to take control of Group B. We name three players who could influence this tie the most.

If Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain was a statement of intent from Cristiano Ronaldo & co., then we can expect a lot from the European champions when they take on Morocco in their second game on Wednesday. Ronaldo personally would like to build on his hat-trick against Spain and take the lead in the race for the Golden Boot while also giving Portugal the control of Group B.

Morocco, on the other hand, will be reeling from their unfortunate last-minute defeat to Iran in their first group stage match, but will look to bounce back and hope for a result against Portugal. Morocco’s defence has been the talking point of this team before the tournament and showed their class in that area against Iran. We look at three players who could have a telling effect on the outcome of the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo will be looking to add to his three goals already scored at this World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Ronaldo will be looking to add to his three goals already scored at this World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

It would be an absolute no-brainer to not include the Portuguese captain on the list, primarily as the top name. Ronaldo’s hat-trick in Portugal’s opening game against Spain silenced all those who had serious doubts over his ability at the big stage in international football.

After Russia’s result against Egypt, Ronaldo has a competitor in Denis Cheryshev with the duo on three goals apiece in the race for the Golden Boot. But, Ronaldo will be looking to go clear of the Russian in a significant way, with a noteworthy performance against Morocco.

The Real Madrid superstar will lead his side onto the pitch against Morocco and will be hoping to win the encounter and take significant control of their group.

Joao Mario

Can Joao Mario bring more fluidity and directness to Portugal's attack against Morocco? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Can Joao Mario bring more fluidity and directness to Portugal’s attack against Morocco? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Fernando Santos could be tinkering with his team for the Morocco clash and is likely to make slight, yet significant changes to his starting lineup. The move is to bring in a more offensive element into the side, and the Portugal boss should do so by bringing in West Ham United midfielder Joao Mario.

Joao Mario will bring the much-needed drive from midfield that Portugal missed during their match against Spain. He has a direct style, which will take the burden off some of the other midfielders as well as from Cristiano Ronaldo to make things happen and focus on getting into scoring positions.

He hasn’t had the best of times at the club level since winning the European Championship two years back, but for his nation, he has always been a consistent performer. Against Morocco, he will be vital to unlock the Africans’ much talked about stubborn defence.

Medhi Benatia

MEdhi Benatia will be hoping to lead his side to a result against Portugal to stay alive in the World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Medhi Benatia will be hoping to lead his side to a result against Portugal to stay alive in the World Cup. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Benatia features yet again as one of those players who could influence a game and rightly so, against Portugal he would be a vital player to stop the opposition attack. He did well against Iran in their first game and was very close to registering a clean sheet for his side, but a late Morocco own goal left him and his team undone.

The Morocco captain will have a massive task at hand against Portugal and will be hoping to do his best to keep his side in the contest for as long as possible. He very well knows a result against the Seleccao is necessary, while a loss, coupled with a victory for Spain, would effectively end their World Cup campaign.

He has the required experience of big games and also knows how to deal with players like Ronaldo under tremendous pressure. He will be a vital cog in keeping the defensive line intact and organised when the Portuguese attack. Another solid performance, and Arsenal might just step up their interest in him.

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