World Cup

Portugal vs Morocco preview

Portugal will edge closer to the knockouts should they beat Morocco in their second Group B game in Moscow.

Portugal defender Pepe said it was a “privilege” for the country to have a player like Cristiano Ronaldo after the Real Madrid star’s dazzling display against Spain on Friday.

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, including an 88th-minute free-kick, as the European champions rescued a point late on in a pulsating 3-3 draw in their opening Group B match last weekend.

“The most important thing for our team is for Cristiano Ronaldo to be well,” Pepe told reporters at the Luzhniki Stadium ahead of Wednesday’s clash at 1pm (BST).

“He’s very happy to be here with us and every match it’s a privilege for us Portuguese to have a player such as him.”

Morocco manager Herve Renard admits it could be difficult for his side to contain Ronaldo as the North African nation look to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Iran.

He said: “Even if you want to draw up plans for Ronaldo, he always finds a way out or makes a difference or puts his team back on the right track.

“He’s absolutely exceptional. Perhaps that word isn’t even strong enough but you have to do everything to stop him.”

Team news

All 23 players took part in Portugal’s final training session ahead of their clash at the Luzhniki Stadium. Andre Silva is expected to take the place of Goncalo Guedes up front, while Joao Mario could be in line to start.

Morocco boss Renard is expected to name an unchanged side to the one that faced Iran on Friday.

Match stats

  • Morocco beat Portugal 3-1 in their only previous encounter, in the group stages of the 1986 World Cup. It was Morocco’s first win at the tournament.
  • Portugal’s only defeat against African opposition at the World Cup came against Morocco in 1986 (1-3) – they’ve won two and drawn one of their subsequent three games against them.
  • Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Spain in their opening match, making him just the fourth player to score in four separate World Cup tournaments, after Uwe Seeler, Pele and Miroslav Klose.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo has also scored in eight consecutive major tournaments (World Cup, European Championships, Copa America) for Portugal, the first player in history to do this – the previous record holder was Zizinho, who scored in seven consecutively.
  • Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz scored an own-goal against Iran in their opening match, becoming just the third substitute to score an own-goal in a World Cup match, after Laszlo Dajka in 1986 (Hungary v USSR) and Petit in 2006 (Portugal v Germany).




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