Some of these second group stage matches can really be make-or-break affairs for squads that entered Russia 2018 with high hopes, and that is exactly the case for Morocco as they prepare for a huge Group B showdown against Portugal.
Of all the 32 teams I watched play their first games, perhaps the side I was most disappointed by was Morocco and their puzzling tactics. They entered by far the superior group to Iran, yet seemed content to oddly play for an easy 0-0 draw. A confusing strategy given they’re in a group with Portugal and Spain. In the end, the usually talented and skilled Moroccans got what they deserved – a shocking own goal in the 93rd minute to lose the match outright to the lowly Iranians. Now Morocco needs to play for a result vs. a Portugal side entering a wave of confidence.
The Portuguese fought hard in their first match against the talented Spaniards. Ronaldo was his usual brilliant self – willing his team back on countless occasions, and ending up with a dazzling hat-trick for his efforts. That said, Portugal showed some vulnerabilities and though they ended up with a tie, the expected goals metric was not kind to them. Portugal will need a more solid effort if they want to remain undefeated at Russia 2018, as a hungry Moroccan side awaits.
It’s been a successful tournament of betting so far through the first week at the World Cup. We’ll look to keep that momentum going throughout the rest of the group stage, so read on below for a full tactical analysis and betting prediction for Morocco and Portugal.
Portugal vs. Morocco Betting Odds:
Over 2.5 (+125)
Under 2.5 (-145)
Portugal vs. Morocco Pick:
Morocco are a lot better of a group than they showed last Friday vs. Iran and I think Portugal will find that out rather quickly in this match-up. Whether or not it’s a case of it being too little, too late for the Moroccans remains to be seen – but I think we’ll see a different group on Wednesday against a talented Portugal squad.
After having lost their opening match, Morocco now need to go for it against two very solid opponents in Portugal and Spain. They have no other choice. Fortunately, they’ve always been solid at the back, and believe it or not, despite their impotence against Iran – Morocco has a lot of skill and attacking flair up front.
Look for Morocco to counter Ronaldo with Juventus’ talented center-back Mehdi Benatia. The veteran was superb vs. Iran and should be able to at least limit Ronaldo to less than three goals in this fixture. Benatia matched up against Ronaldo during the Champions League and experienced some success – so this is not a match-up he’ll shy away from. He has commanded an excellent defense throughout qualifying, and this is not a team that concedes easily. I’d expect Morocco to remain in their shape in the early stages, and be compact and difficult for the talented Portuguese to break down.
But look for the Moroccans to push forward more willingly in this contest as it stays tied. Portugal are likely content with a draw here, but Morocco may just take some chances to push for a victory – prior to their toughest test next week, the Spaniards. Hakim Ziyech will again be a focal point of the Atlas Lions’ attack going forward, and should be able to test a Portuguese back-line that has serious vulnerabilities. 35-year old Pepe and 34-year old Jose Fonte are simply no longer at the level required for a World Cup, and Morocco will recognize this. That duo looked a step behind and lost at times against Spain, and Morocco’s speed and youth can be troubling.
Manager Herve Renard has no choice but to release the shackles and let his team play a more free-flowing game. Portugal has weaknesses, and when you look back and reflect – this group was very fortunate to have received a point vs. Spain. Look for their 4-2-3-1 formation to cause damage to Portugal, specifically out on the right flank where Ziyech and Nordin Amrabat should be able to link well and wreak havoc on the left side of the Portuguese line-up.
I’d expect an entirely different Moroccan side for this encounter. They’ll continue to be solid at the back and stifle Ronaldo, and have enough up front to cause real problems to Portugal’s defense. Look for the Atlas Lions to push for a win, but they’ll be content with a draw as well to try and keep their hopes alive. The best betting option in this contest is likely Morocco +1 goal hovering around a -145 price. They can draw or win and you’ll profit, or they can lose by a goal and you’ll push. Enjoy the match!