Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo attends a training session at the team's base in Kratovo, outside Moscow, on June 19, 2018, on the eve of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco. / AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo attends a training session at the team's base in Kratovo, outside Moscow, on June 19, 2018, on the eve of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco. / AFP PHOTO / Francisco LEONG

Portugal skipper Ronaldo looks to continue goal-scoring spree against African nation.

Moscow : Cristiano Ronaldo will attempt to follow up his World Cup opening game heroics for Portugal against a Morocco side licking their wounds after a crushing last-gasp defeat.

A hat-trick from the five-time world player of the year 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.

“I am very happy, it’s a nice personal record to have, one more in my career,” said Ronaldo.

“For me the most important thing is to emphasise what the team did against one of the favourites to win this World Cup.”

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. “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.”

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.

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.

Renard lamented that Morocco were “crucified by our own errors” in the loss to Iran, but the Frenchman is used to defying the odds, having led outsiders Zambia to a surprise triumph at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

Squads

PORTUGAL: Anthony Lopes, Beto, Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Cedric Soares, José Fonte, Mario Rui, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro, Ricardo Pereira, Ruben Dias, Adrien Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Mario, Joao Moutinho, Manuel Fernandes, William Carvalho, Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gelson Martins, Goncalo Guedes, Ricardo Quaresma.

COACH: Fernando Santos managed Portugal’s Big Three, winning five major titles with Porto. For the better part of the 2000s he worked in Greece, mainly with AEK Athens and PAOK.

Morocco: Mounir El Kajoui, Yassine Bounou, Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti, Medhi Benatia, Romain Saiss, Manuel Da Costa, Badr Benoun, Nabil Dirar, Achraf Hakimi, Hamza Mendyl, M’barek Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi, Youssef Ait Bennasser, Sofyan Amrabat, Younes Belhanda, Faycal Fajr, Amine Harit, Nordin Amrabat, Khalid Boutaib, Aziz Bouhaddouz, Ayoub El Kaabi, Mehdi Carcela, Hakim Ziyech.

COACH: Herve Renard has previously been the manager of the Zambian national team, with whom he won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

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