Morocco Can Make Life Difficult For Ronaldo, Portugal
USA TODAY Sports
Portugal vs. Morocco 8 a.m. ET Wednesday, Fox Sports 1
- Morocco +488
- Portugal -151
- Draw +274
Bet to Watch:
Both teams to score +125
It was a day of late goals at the World Cup in Russia last Friday, leaving three sides elated and three bemoaning their inability to keep things tight in the dying moments.
Portugal and Morocco fell into the different brackets, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s 88th-minute free-kick goal earning an impressive point against Spain, while an Aziz Bouhaddouz own goal deprived Morocco one of their own in a match that they would have been desperate to win, let alone draw.
As a result, the two teams approach this encounter with a very different mind-set, and while Portugal are strong favorites, they know that a draw would be enough to leave qualification in their own hands ahead of a favorable final game with Iran. Morocco, meanwhile, would see a point as a positive result in different circumstances but would need to beat Spain and hope that Iran get a result against their upcoming opponents on Wednesday in order to reach the knockout stages. Simply put, this is a must-win game for the underdogs.
With that in mind, you can expect the sort of start that we saw from both of these sides in their opening matches, with Morocco coming out of the blocks quickly and Portugal happy to counter; but if the Atlas Lions fail to make any potential early dominance count, they will be in trouble. Herve Renard’s side seemed to tire after a vibrant start against Iran, and the European champions will be happy to bide their time in this one, so another high-scoring affair seems less likely.
Indeed, anyone expecting Portugal to see the lion’s share of possession may be in for a surprise, with coach Fernando Santos finally settling on a side and a style that gets the best from the attacking players at his disposal. They have been faster and more direct with their passing in recent matches, sitting relatively deep without the ball to prevent teams from exposing the lack of pace at the heart of the defense.
Fortunately for Morocco, they aren’t really a side that looks to play long balls to turn opposition defenders around, instead relying on the creativity and vision of the three behind the striker to pick the lock. In turn this should be an intriguing tactical battle, with the Africans needing to open up at one stage or another.
They will have taken heart from the fact that while main man Cristiano Ronaldo is very much in form, the Portugal rearguard action was still questionable at best against Spain, and while they may not ship another three, this Morocco side are capable of causing problems.
The price on both teams to score is very appealing indeed (+130) and is the best value bet in my mind for Wednesday’s early kickoff.