Cristiano Ronaldo returns to action in Russia on Wednesday when Portugal take on Morocco. Both teams need points to climb the standings, as Iran currently lead Group B with three points.
Portugal vs. Morocco Squads
These teams experienced opposite emotions in their opening matches: Portugal were handled by Spain but survived a draw on a Ronaldo hat trick, while Morocco thoroughly stifled Iran but an own goal in the 95th minute broke a scoreless tie.
Even at 33 years old, Ronaldo captured the attention of the world last week. He beat Spain and David de Gea three times in Portugal’s opener, including a dramatic free kick in the 88th minute to bring the game to a 3-3 draw. He’s the oldest player to record a hat trick at a World Cup, and is now tied with Ferenc Puskas for most international goals by a European player (84).
Portugal are fully fit for their second fixture, with no injuries following the match with Spain. Portugal did not win the possession battle in their opener, but should be the aggressor against Morocco.
The Atlas Lions dominated the ball against Iran in their opener, only to tragically lose in the final minutes. Morocco held 68 percent possession against Iran, and did not allow a single shot in the second half. Unfortunately, a late clearance attempt by Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz went directly into his own net, handing three points and control of the group to Iran.
Morocco will be without Nordin Amrabat, who has been ruled out with a concussion. After he and an Iranian defender banged heads, Amrabat stumbled to the sidelines for treatment. Morocco’s medical staff attempted to stabilize Amrabat, and were criticized after the match for slapping his face in an attempt to get him back on the field. Amrabat spent the night in the hospital, but was released the following morning to the team facility. The Royal Moroccan Football Federation stated that he would be unavailable for at least one week.
Without a right back, Morocco is in trouble in what is essentially an elimination game for them. After disaster in their opener, the Atlas Lions need a positive result, possibly even a win with only Spain left on the group schedule. Portugal are a vastly more athletic side than Iran, and keeping possession the way they did will prove much more difficult. Expect Portugal to dominate with speed on the wings, especially without Amrabat. He was replaced in the opener by his younger brother Sofyan, but that is unconfirmed for Wednesday.
Portugal vs. Morocco Lineups
Lineups are released one hour before kickoff
Portugal: Patrício, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, B. Silva, W. Carvalho, Moutinho, João Mário, Cristiano Ronaldo, Guedes
Morocco: Mohamedi, Dirar, Da Costa, Benatia, Hakimi, El Ahmadi, Boussoufa, Belhanda, Harit, Boutaib, Ziyech