Portugal will be looking to capitalise on their dramatic draw with Spain earlier with the aim of inflicting more pain on Morocco’s campaign to go top of their group.
Portugal played out a dramatic 3-3 draw just days earlier as Cristiano Ronaldo made his mark pretty early in this World Cup to peg Spain with a stylish hattrick. This time, however, when they face Morocco, Portugal will be looking to collect all three points and go top of their group to build momentum towards qualifying for the next round.
Morocco, on the other hand, will be looking for a win of their own, as they were surprised by Iran very late on in their opening game. Morocco scored a late own goal against Iran gifting all three points to the Asian side, thus putting a dent to their own hopes at the World Cup.
Both teams are set to meet in a crucial Group B encounter, and the winner will gain momentum going into the third round of matches. Portugal especially, need this win to somewhat have the upper hand in this group and put pressure on Spain, whose victory against Iran later could give an interesting twist to the whole contest of this group.
Team News & Tactics
Fernando Santos will be looking to keep this group closer and maintain momentum heading into their second group stage game. Most likely, Santos will retain the side that played against Spain, hoping to repair some damage the game caused to their plans.
Most importantly, Santos has to look into the defensive frailties his side showed at the back against the Spaniards. Jose Fonte and Pepe still have it in them, but there could be doubts whether their ageing legs can handle the pressure of an entire tournament. Santos could yet contemplate drafting Ruben Dias against Morocco while deciding to rest one of Pepe or Fonte.
Cristiano Ronaldo, without a doubt, will lead the attacking line, but Santos could decide to tinker with the team that played against Spain. The most likely candidate to come in will be Joao Mario if Santos chooses to go with more offensive ideas. There could be a place for Ricardo Quaresma if Goncalo Guedes or Bruno Fernandes is dropped to the bench after a lacklustre showing in the first game.
Probable Starting-XI (4-3-3) – Patricio; Soares, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Moutinho, Mario; B.Silva, Guedes; Ronaldo
Despite being undone by an unfortunate own goal against Iran in their opening game, there is no reason for Herve Renard to be disappointed with his side. On the contrary, he would be impressed by their showing, especially in defence, and is likely to retain the same team against Portugal barring slight changes.
Nordin Amrabat is a significant doubt for this game, as he was taken off against Iran after suffering from a concussion. His younger brother, Sofyan Amrabat could be the player to replace him in the team. In defence, Renard is likely to retain the players that played against Iran, as this is the backline that has been in dangerous form under his leadership.
Ayoub El Kaabi would be the preferred choice of centre-forward as Renard is set to keep faith in his attacking line against Portugal, despite their need to be more clinical inside the box. Mbark Boussoufa and Karim El Ahmadi are configured to maintain midfield positions and help thwart the threat posed by Portugal’s attackers.
Probable Starting-XI (4-2-3-1) – Munir; S.Amrabat, Benatia, Saiss, Hakimi; El Ahmadi, Boussoufa; Belhanda, Harit, Ziyech; El Kaabi
- Morocco are the only African team to beat Portugal in the World Cup in the sides’ single game to date back in 1986.
- Portugal have lost only one game in the last ten encounters at group stage level.
- After his hattrick against Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo became the oldest hat-trick scorer in World Cup history.
- Portugal are unbeaten against non-european opponents since June 2002.
- Morocco did not concede a single shot during the second half against Iran
Player to Watch
There is indeed no doubt about who the eyes will be on when Portugal take on Morocco. He has become the most talked about player during this tournament. His hat-trick against Spain has been one of the most talked about moments of this tournament, and the money will be on him to continue to trend further.
Ronaldo has already made and broken some old records with that hat-trick against Spain. He was apparently very motivated, and the hunger was visible for everyone to see, a trend which he is likely to continue against Morocco, as he bids to take his nation as far as possible as well as performing better than anyone in the tournament.
Portugal 2-0 Morocco
Morocco might have defended very well against Iran, but it would be another level of challenge when they face Portugal. There are experienced players at the back for Morocco, but they are yet to be tested by someone like Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in general.
Then there is the question of Morocco’s attack, as they know they have to win this game to have any chance of progression from the group. This team failed to break down Iran’s defence for 90 minutes and will undoubtedly struggle against an ageing but immensely experienced Portugal defence. In the end, the prediction is towards a comfortable Portugal win.