Preview: Portugal vs Morocco - Stop Cristiano Ronaldo if you can...

Amol Gokhale
Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Morocco coach Renard is likely to field four defenders, led by Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia in an effort to block the Portuguese attack led by Ronaldo

Moscow: It is difficult to look beyond a certain Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portugal captain scored a spectacular hat-trick against Spain last week in an 'Iberian Derby' that ended in a 3-3 draw.

The Real Madrid superstar, who recently lifted the third successive Champions League, has surely transformed his game over the years as he is now on the wrong side of the thirties.

He is not the Ronaldo of his Manchester United days, where he would be darting down the flanks or running at defenders, but now he has moved more centrally, still haunting the defenders with his pace.

During the season, there were claims about Ronaldo's ability as a striker as he went through a lean patch, but as the season progressed, he picked up the pace and finished the season with 44 goals in as many games, including a stunning overhead-kick goal against Juventus in the Champions League.

Worry for Morocco
The 33-year-old striker would certainly give Morocco head coach, Herve Renard, a sleepless night trying to come up with a plan to stop him from scoring, especially after he scored three versus Spain last week.

It is often easy to not look beyond Ronaldo for obvious reasons, but Portugal are reigning European champions under the manager Fernando Santos, who took bold decisions in dropping as many as nine players from his Euro winning side, for the World Cup.

Morocco coach Renard is likely to field four defenders, led by Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia in an effort to block the Portuguese attack led by Ronaldo. 

The defeat would certainly end their chances of making progress into the next round, especially when they then have to face another Iberian side in Spain, in their final group game.

It not just the defensive duties that they will have to perform well, but will have to be more creative going forward as they created very little in their game against Iran. If they have an off-night like they had against Iran, it is highly unlikely that they will trouble experience Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who will have experienced Pepe and Jose Fonte ahead of him.

What Portugal did brilliantly against Spain was they didn't shy away from attacking Spanish back-line and were certainly rewarded with that for their second goal. They have a formidable midfield with William, Joao Moutinho and Joao Mario, while Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva provide ample ammunition to their skipper.

Come Wednesday, on the huge field of Luzhniki Stadium, Morocco will have one big test, stop Cristiano Ronaldo if they can.

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