Even the best laid plans to limit the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo might not be enough for Morocco when they come up against Portugal at the World Cup in Moscow, coach Herve Renard said on the eve of the Group B game.
Morocco are looking for an upset win over the European champions at the Luzhniki Stadium today to realistically keep alive their interest in the tournament but mindful that the genius of the Portugal captain could send them towards an early exit. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Portugal’s opening 3-3 draw with Spain, while Morocco lost 1-0 to Iran who top the group.
“Even if you conjure up the best plans to halt Ronaldo, he will find a way to break free. He always makes the difference, at the minimum to put his side on the right track and at best to win the game for them,” the French-born coach said yesterday.
Portugal defender Pepe said it was a “privilege” for the country to have a player like Ronaldo after the Real Madrid star’s dazzling display against Spain at the World Cup.
“The most important thing for our team is for Cristiano Ronaldo to be well,” Pepe said yesterday. “He’s very happy to be here with us and every match it’s a privilege for us Portuguese to have a player such as him.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos insisted there will be no complacency from his players against Morocco after the heavyweight battle with Spain.
They are one of the best African squads,” Santos said. “They have very experienced players who have mostly been playing in Europe. The team is very well-organised and know their game very well. They have always played to the best of their abilities with full intensity.
Santos stressed that relying on Ronaldo alone would not be enough to succeed. “I hope Cristiano Ronaldo will play a great match, we’re used to that almost,” Santos said. “Not only in terms of the last match but his career as a whole.
“I hope he and our team are ready,” he added. “The captain is a very important aspect… but I have never seen a player win a game for his team on his own.”