The World Cup is truly underway it seems and it has unfurled in a manner not many would have surmised. The flavor of this edition seems to be underdog triumphs, major upsets, penalties aplenty and interesting VAR decisions.
Coming to Match Day 2 for Group B, we have a very interesting tie on our hands. For most fans this is mainly an opportunity to glimpse upon the larger than life megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, but we do have some other areas to focus on besides him (wink).
Luzhniki Stadium will see Group’s number 2 and bottom placed teams Portugal vs Morocco collide in what seems to be a must win for either side, as both have failed to win their previous matches.
Portugal come into this game strong, having set their standards high by thumping 3 goals past mighty Spain, while Morocco are dejected having lost to a late own goal vs Iran. So going by apparent form, Portugal have the advantage. Ronaldo scored his career’s 51st hattrick against Spain in the group opener, which was also the tournaments 51st hattrick.
In their only previous encounter, Morocco actually beat Portugal 3-1 at the 1986 World Cup.That seems to be too long ago to hold any major relevance now.
Crucially though, Portugal haven’t lost to non-European opposition since the 2002 World Cup and have lost only one group stage match out of their previous 10 and will look to continue the same in the Portugal vs Morocco fixture.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR in Portugal vs Morocco:
The easiest pick of the lot. It has been suggested time and again that Portugal is just Ronaldo F.C and the stats show why. Even in the last game, it was Mr. Dependable who had to rescue his team from dire straits by scoring his first major tournament hattrick.
It just goes to show that he will produce something extraordinary when the situation demands him to, and I fully expect him to kill the Portugal vs Morocco game off with his goals(perhaps another free-kick) as well. Also, he will look to hold on to the top-scorer spot for the tournament and also go past Puskas’ record of 84 international goals.
The Portuguese left back has real quality and pace to burn. He was solid vs Spain most of the time. His layoffs and inside cuts are deadly when executed right. He has good long range passing, crossing and set-play abilities which can be utilized against Morocco’s inexperienced defence.
This guy brings the much needed muscle to a team which otherwise lacks physicality. He shields the defence nicely, wins balls like clockwork, provides decent passes alongside Moutinho and decently challenges for headers. He has to nail down the ‘Busquets’ role yet again if Portugal are to have a good showing.
Juventus centre back Mehdi Benatia is a mainstay for the Moroccan defence. However, he must perform out of his skins if he wants to contain Ronaldo on Wednesday. He has plenty of experience, having played for European superpowers Bayern Munich and Juventus. Apart from being good in the air, he has an eye for a pass and may be able to feed the likes of Ziyech for a counter-attack.
The playmaking linchpin has already grabbed a lot of headlines this year, bagging 9 goals and 15 assists from 34 games in the Erendivisie. However, if he truly wants to inflate his stock in the transfer market, he will have to out-fox wily Ronaldo and his band of Portuguese soldiers. Ziyech can do it all-dribble, pass, take set pieces and long-shots and make good runs. If this is a free flowing match, expect to get mesmerized by his bag of tricks.
PREDICTED LINE-UPS FOR PORTUGAL VS SPAIN:
I doubt that Portugal coach Fernando Santos would tinker much with that squad, especially after they performed so well and absorbed all of Spain’s pressure. I do expect though that Joao Mario will start. Andre Silva and Quaresma are likely to have roles as impact subs.
As for Morocco, the team hasn’t suffered any major injuries in their clash vs Iran and thus should field a strong starting XI. They have to, because a loss in the Portugal vs Morocco clash means a goodbye for them.
The likes of Amrabat and Madrid’s Hakimi must get forward at right moments to help aid the attack. Portugal’s defense can be targeted. Costa bullied them single handedly and Morocco must look for chinks in the armor as well for the Portugal vs Morocco clash.
MATCH-SCORE PREDICTION FOR PORTUGAL VS MOROCCO
This is a game which Portugal has about 59% chance of winning. Morocco have odds of 15% to win and 26% to draw. Possession wise I think Portugal will dominate in the Portugal vs Morocco clash although they normally like to play counter-attacking football .
Morocco had a good defensive organization prior to that own goal vs Iran and a decent passing rate of 84% .This game will prove to be a much greater challenge for them to retain solidarity. I expect Ronaldo to be at his poaching best and even make a few chances for his teammates along the way. If Ziyech scores, it might merely be for consolation but you never know with football do you?
— My Beautiful Country (@alentejo_1970) June 20, 2018
My verdict For Portugal vs Morocco :
3-1 to Portugal