Portugal boss Fernando Santos wary of Morocco threat

Portugal manager Fernando Santos has warned his team about the threat Morocco will pose in Wednesday’s World Cup Group B fixture.

Morocco’s 1-0 defeat by Iran has put them under pressure to secure a positive result and revive their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.

Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain also leaves them in an uncertain position, but although they remain favourites finish in the top two alongside their neighbours, Santos recognises the danger involved in Wednesday’s meeting.

Portugal v Spain – FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group B – Fisht Stadium
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was again the centre of attention before they face Morocco (Adam Davy/EMPICS)

Morocco were expected to be their biggest rivals for second place, behind Spain, and the 63-year-old told FIFA’s official website: “The Morocco team is very good; one of the best African squads. They’re very good and have players who’ve been playing mostly in Europe.

“They’re very well organised, they know the game technically and tactically. They’ve always played to their full intensity on the pitch and we have to respond to that.

“Portugal’s ready. We have to do what we’ve done so far; give our best in terms of concentration, and respond to the opponents’ intensity. It’s a very important game because nothing’s been decided.

“We’ve thought about what we did (against Spain) – the good things, the less good things. We’ve tried to continue improving what we did well and rectify what we didn’t do so well, but it’s two or three days, we don’t have magic dust.

“I hope Cristiano (Ronaldo) will play a great match. We’re used to that almost, not only in the last match but his career as a whole. I hope he and our team are ready, and we’ll be able to face a strong team like Morocco. But I’ve never seen a player win a game on his own.”

Santos refused to reveal if he would make changes to his team, but he was joined at Tuesday’s press conference by Pepe, who added: “They’re strong as a whole. It’s a good team; they fight quite well, and work very well and are very well trained.

Portugal v Spain – FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group B – Fisht Stadium
Portugal’s central defender Pepe respects Morocco as much as his manager (Adam Davy/EMPICS)

“It’s nothing new, about Cristiano Ronaldo. We had a fantastic match and it’s very important he’s so humble on the pitch to help the team and the country. We’re very happy with him and his performance.

“I hope this is going to be a good match for us. We are representing our country, and this is the most important thing right now to all of us.”

Morocco manager Herve Renard said of the in-form Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick against Spain, to L’Equipe: “Those who try to mount a plan against him, he always manages to find something to make the difference.

Morocco v Iran – FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group B – St Petersburg Stadium
Herve Renard is wary of Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo (Tim Goode/EMPICS)

“He’s an exceptional player. The word may not even be strong enough, but we must do everything to make it less exceptional.

“If we put three (players) on Ronaldo, they have so much offensive quality.

“If it only happens once in our lives to play Cristiano Ronaldo, you have to be the best you can.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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