Group B action kicks off the World Cup schedule on Wednesday, June 20th, from Russia and it could be a bit of a letdown game for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal off their scintillating first-round draw against arch-rival Spain. Ronaldo and Co., however, are solidly favored to beat Morocco on the latest soccer odds.
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Portugal vs. Morocco 2018 World Cup Betting Analysis & Prediction
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) 19 de junio de 2018
- When: Wednesday, 8 AM ET
- Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
- TV/Stream: Fox Sports 1 / Fox Sports Go
- 2018 World Cup Betting Odds: Portugal -152 / Morocco +460 / Draw+245 (Total at 2.5 goals)
Why Bet on Morocco?
- Confederation: CAF
- Head coach: Hervé Renard
- Captain: Medhi Benatia
- FIFA Ranking: 41
Morocco appears to be the weak side in Group B following a 1-0 opening loss to Iran. Morocco started strongly but their impetus faded before Aziz Bouhaddouz’s late own goal secured Iran their first World Cup win in 20 years. Morocco entered on an 18-match unbeaten streak.
Coach Herve Renard was not happy that his side enjoyed over 68 percent of the possession but created precious little in the way of good chances. In addition, Renard’s decision not to keep faith in the creative talents of Hakim Ziyech and Younes Belhanda arguably cost Morocco in that match Friday. Renard went for an attacking lineup for Friday’s showdown, knowing, perhaps, that with Spain and Portugal to come in Group B, it was imperative that his side began their campaign with a win.
His starting selection was bold, clearly with the intent of starting strongly and taking the game to Iran, with Amine Harit introduced to the side. His first substitution – made in the 76th minute – was enforced upon him by injury, and he opted against turning to Khalid Boutaib, top scorer in qualifying. While Ziyech and Belhanda were involved in Morocco’s considerable possession too many of their touches were in harmless areas.
How can Morocco rebound here? Nabil Dirar should be back after missing the opener and he’s a key element in the defense. They will have a bit of inside knowledge, as Achraf Hakimi knows Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. The more experienced Boutaib may also get the nod over Ayoub El Kaabi up top. Contrary to facing Iran, Morocco knows this team.
Portugal forward Andre Silva spoke out about Morocco’s strengths: “This is a difficult game, a game that the opponent will take seriously, as we do. Morocco has many players who were born in Europe, we know that they did not concede goals in the qualification. This is why it is a difficult game that we want to win.”
Despite sitting at the bottom of Group B, Morocco can draw inspiration for the forthcoming game from their previous FIFA World Cup encounter with the same opponents, at Mexico 1986. The Atlas Lions beat Portugal 3-1 to finish top of their World Cup group and qualify for the knockout stages – the first African nation to achieve that.
- 5-M. Benatia
- 2-A. Hakimi
- 8-K. El Ahmadi
- 14-M. Boussoufa
- 10-Y. Belhanda
- 6-R. Saïss
- 7-H. Ziyech
- 18-A. Harit
- 16-N. Amrabat
- 9-A. El Kaabi
Why Bet on Portugal?
- Confederation: UEFA
- Head coach: Fernando Santos
- Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo
- FIFA Ranking: 4
Cristiano Ronaldo was absolutely incredible with a hat-trick as Portugal salvaged a late 3-3 draw with Spain in their opener. Two minutes from time, Portugal was awarded a free kick after a Gerard Pique foul, and of course, Ronaldo was given the penalty chance. Ronaldo waddled back, got into his wide stance and unleashed a vicious strike that curved around the Spanish wall and into the net.
“When you face a player like Cristiano, these things can happen,” Spain boss Fernando Hierro said. “We could have been 4-2 up, maybe more, we had the ball for a long time, but then there’s just that one moment, that tiny detail, and when your opponent has Cristiano, they’re fortunate because they capitalize on it.”
The euphoria surrounding Ronaldo’s brilliance and his late equalizer cannot mask the fact that Portugal was outplayed by Spain for most of the 90 minutes. If Ronaldo can repeat his hat-trick heroics from Sochi, not only will he become the first player to score consecutive hat-tricks in a FIFA World Cup, but he will equal the legendary Eusebio as his country’s top World Cup goalscorer.
Ronaldo’s hat-trick brought him to level with Ferenc Puskas for the most international goals by a European player. Ronaldo scored his 82nd, 83rd and 84th career goals for Portugal to match Puskas, who played for Hungary from 1945 to 1956 and for whom FIFA has named its Goal of the Year Award. Among players from all continents, Ronaldo now trails only Ali Daei, who scored 109 goals for Iran from 1993 to 2006. At 33, Ronaldo also became the oldest player to score a hat-trick in the World Cup, breaking the record of Dutch forward Rob Rensenbrink, who was nearly 31 at the 1978 World Cup.
The hat trick also was the 51st of Ronaldo’s career for club and country — but the first time his team failed to win. However, Ronaldo said he thought the draw was a “fair result.”
Coach Fernando Santos is expected to make some changes for this game. Andre Silva is expected to take the place of Goncalo Guedes, and Joao Mario should return to the starting XI.
- 1-R. Patrício
- 6-J. Fonte
- 21-C. Soares
- 5-R. Guerreiro
- 8-J. Moutinho
- 14-W. Carvalho
- 17-G. Guedes
- 16-B. Fernandes
- 11-B. Silva
- 7-C. Ronaldo
Expert Final Prediction
Portugal 2 – Morocco 1