Portugal 1-0 Morocco Six Things: Ronaldo bails out the Selecao

 

Ruthless Ronaldo – express.co.uk

Cristiano Ronaldo’s fourth-minute goal gave Portugal a 1-0 win over Morocco in Group B of Russia 2018. Here’s six things from the game.

Ronaldo’s makes history

It took just four minutes for Cristiano Ronaldo to become the all-time leading goalscorer in international football. Bernardo Silva’s free-kick was well-placed for the Real Madrid star, who produced an incredible spring to head past Munir Mohamedi. From a Morocco perspective, experienced centre-back Manuel Da Costa might be disappointed to have let his man go, knowing the consequences would likely be fatal.

Morocco’s tenacity

Herve Renard’s side though responded superbly to the goal; they always had one midfielder pressing up alongside Boutaib, typically Mbark Boussafa. Karim El-Ahmedi made his presence felt by winning countless challenges while right-back Nabil Dirar and winger Nordin Amrabat caused serious problems for Guerreiro, who suffered from a lack of defensive support. Hakim Ziyech drifted in from the left channel to provide overloads while Younes Belhanda showed some lovely touches in the number 10 role. Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho, midfielders who have played in the Champions League, lacked the mobility to press effectively without much support and therefore didn’t engage with the ball until it released their defensive third.

Atlas Lions miss their prey

For all their high-octane play, Morocco didn’t manage as many meaningful efforts as they might have liked in the first half. While Portugal had a striker in Ronaldo who needs no invitation to become a major threat, Boutaib among didn’t quite offer the strong goalscoring presence required.

Patricio beats Belhanda

Renard’s side posed more of a direct goalscoring threat after the break, when Younes Belhanda managed two on-target efforts: the first a curling effort, the second a powerful header. Both efforts were brilliantly saved by Rui Patricio, before the suspect Jose Fonte’s slip allowed Mehdi Benatia a guilt-edge chance from Ziyech’s free-kick, but the centre-back blasted over.

Morocco’s dream over

As well as Morocco played, defeat has mathematically ended their chances of qualifying for the last-16. Renard’s side have been the more prominent outfit against both Portugal and Iran but the fact they have only been able to hit the target a combined four times in those encounters, tells us what the next phase of their development needs to be. It’s one thing looking like the better side – and there are positives Renard can take out of his side’s campaign – but it’s another thing to convert pressure into goals.

Portugal improvement needed

Fernando Santos’ side have had almost the opposite campaign to Morocco. Ronaldo’s clinical finishing has masked the fact that they were largely outplayed by not only a world-class technical outfit in Spain, but also the energy and tenacity of a supposedly lesser outfit. The Selecao should qualify for the last-16 – and now they have confirmed a knockout tie with Uruguay – but their performances must improve if they are to have another memorable campaign.