Portugal vs Morocco 0-1 as at happened?

Portugal head into their Group B showdown with Morocco on Wednesday still on a high after Cristiano Ronaldo’s late free kick secured a 3-3 draw with Spain.

As for Morocco, Herve Renard will have had to work hard to lift his players after they succumbed to a last-gasp defeat to Iran in their opening fixture on Friday.

For the first time in many years, Portugal head into a major tournament regarded as more than dark horses due to their triumph at Euro 2016, and their performance against Spain will only add to the theory that they can achieve a famous double.

After injury cut short his time in the European Championships final, Ronaldo appears to have arrived in Russia knowing that time is running out to add the Jules Rimet trophy to his vast list of accolades, and that desire will strike fear into future opponents.

When the Real Madrid superstar stepped back to take that late free kick against Spain, there felt an inevitability about what was to come, and it is a moment which can act as the springboard for Portugal to have a long run in this competition.

Publicly, Ronaldo will say that he does not see himself in direct competition with Lionel Messi but with the Argentine maestro failing to impress against Iceland at the weekend, it will only add to the theory that Ronaldo is determined to outshine his biggest rival.

Despite the heroics of the 33-year-old, Portugal cannot afford to ignore the negatives from Friday’s performance, most notably a defensive performance which will only encourage Morocco and Iran.

Fernando Santos is dealing with a transitional period with his backline, and with veterans Pepe and Jose Fonte both showing their weaknesses against Spain, the national team coach must decide whether to draft in younger replacements.

The same pairing kept a clean sheet against Belgium earlier this month, but A Selecao das Quinas have only recorded two shutouts in their last seven outings and it is an area of the pitch which could potentially undermine their efforts in the final third.

Games with Morocco and Iran give Santos some leeway to find a stronger solution in the long term, but a balance must be found at a time when achieving first place in Group B could prove to be crucial.

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