Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo is centre-stage again when Portugal play their second group game of the Fifa World Cup 2018. After a Ronaldo hat-trick helped Portugal to a draw against Spain, the European champions will now look for their first victory when they play Morocco on Wednesday.

On paper, this should be a much easier game for Portugal, considering Spain is one of the favourites to lift the World Cup title.

However, what the "easier game" tag also means is that Portugal will have to change their tactics.

Against Spain, they used their speed on the counter-attack to great effect, with Ronaldo running riot, scoring his first ever World Cup hat-trick and an incredible 51st of his career. Against Morocco, that might not work, because Portugal, most likely, will be the ones with the majority of the possession.

So, Fernando Santos will need to think of a plan to beat the Morocco defence, without using that power on the counter-attack.

That could mean Andre Silva coming into the starting XI for Portugal, with the more traditional centre-forward providing that hold-up play and flicks and knock-ons that will be necessary. If Silva does come into the playing XI, then Goncalo Guedes, who was hard-working, but did not have the quality in his finish, could make way.

Morocco was extremely unlucky to leave without a point from their opening World Cup 2018 fixture, with an own goal, in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, consigning them to a 1-0 defeat against Iran.

While they will feel they could have done better going forward in the previous 94 minutes of the game, Morocco will know they need to be at their absolute defensive best to keep Ronaldo and co out.

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Santos has all 23 players available, which means the starting XI will come down to which players he feels will make the difference against Morocco. Silva could start alongside Ronaldo, while there could be a change in midfield as well with Joao Mario or Gelson Martins the options that Santos is reportedly considering.

Bruno Fernandes picked ahead of Silva and Martins for the opener against Spain, seemed to struggle with the pace of the game, and could make way. Considering how important Mario was in Euro 2016 for Portugal, smart money would be on the midfielder, who played for West Ham last season, to return to the starting XI.


Herve Renard, the Morocco manager, looked shell-shocked after that late defeat to Iran, but he is not expected to make wholesale changes as a reaction.

Renard is expected to stick to pretty much the same playing XI, with the one change expected to be at right-back. Nordin Amrabat, who started the game, had to be taken off after clashing heads and has been diagnosed with a concussion. That means he, most likely, will not play a part in this game. Nabil Dirar is expected to miss out again with a knee problem.

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