Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will look to continue his FIFA World Cup 2018 opening game heroics as Portugal face a wounded Morocco side at Luzhniki Stadium, in Moscow on Wednesday. A hat-trick from the five-time world player of the year Ronaldo snatched a thrilling 3-3 draw for the European champions against Spain in a heavyweight Group B showdown in Sochi. It was Ronaldo’s 51st career hat-trick, and the 51st in the tournament’s history, as the Real Madrid star became just the fourth player to score in four World Cups. Morocco lost their opening game 1-0 against Iran.
Despite lifting the trophy at Euro 2016, Portugal are not widely viewed as among the favourites in Russia but can take a big step towards the last 16 with victory over Morocco in Moscow on Wednesday.
It will be just the second meeting between the two countries, after Morocco beat Portugal 3-1 in the group stage at the 1986 finals.
“I think we are stronger than Morocco if we compare the two teams, but I’m not saying the game will be easy for us,” striker Andre Silva told reporters at Portugal’s training base.
“We cannot underestimate them and must have respect for any opponent. Any game at the World Cup is difficult.”
Morocco did not concede a single goal in the final qualifying round as they sealed a return to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years, but their knockout hopes hang by a thread after a 95th-minute own goal by Aziz Bouhaddouz against Iran.
Herve Renard’s men face a monumental challenge, with games to come against Portugal and Spain, but midfielder Faycal Fajr is adamant all is not lost for the Atlas Lions.
“If I said that we don’t believe we can qualify it would be a lie,” said Fajr, one of 17 players born abroad in Morocco’s 23-man squad.
“I could throw out some examples, like the Argentina draw (1-1 with Iceland). Where there’s a will there’s a way. (The Portuguese) have two feet, two legs and they are humans like us.”
“We lost a battle but we haven’t lost the war. We’re not dead,” he added.”
(With AFP inputs)