Portugal v Morocco Wednesday June 20, 13:00 TV: live on BBC1
It can't all be about Ronaldo
People can say what they like about Cristiano Ronaldo. He's vain, he's selfish, he's obsessed with his own records and stats. It's as easy to dislike him as it is to love him. But when push comes to shove: how many of you out there don't t wish he played for your side? Yeah, didn't think so.
But perhaps therein lies the problem for Portugal. If CR7 carries on defying logic, then the sky is the limit. If he has a bad day, gets injured, is marked well then it's hard to see where the Portugal goals and inspiration are going to come from. Of the three or four attacking players in that thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain, no-one else had a particularly good game.
Still, this is a very different sort of challenge to the one that Spain posed and if the brilliance of Ronaldo was needed to make a difference in that one, then this might be just the sort of game where a Bernardo Silva or Bruno Fernandes may find they have a little more time and space to show us what they're all about.
Goncalo Guedes may not have the chance. He started after a series of good performances in friendlies but looked way out of his depth on Friday night and is likely to make way for AC Milan's Andre Silva.
Morocco already drinking in last-chance saloon
If Morocco are going to take any sort of consolation out of their shock 1-0 defeat to Iran, it would be that they were very much the better team. Opta are quick to point out that the 68% possession they had against Iran was the most by a team in a losing cause at the World Cup since Spain lost to Switzerland in 2010. Iniesta and co had 73% that day.
But tournament football is unforgiving and whereas an unlucky defeat in a domestic league always allows you plenty of games to recover from it, here you're drinking in last-chance saloon as soon as you lose one.
It doesn't get much better for Morocco. Portugal enjoy playing African sides. Their only defeat against African opposition was in 1986 versus... Morocco. Since then, they've won twice and drawn one against other countries from the African continent.
Hard to argue with Portugal's price
On a regular Premier League weekend, you'll see far worse prices than the 1.70 about Portugal beating Morocco. But this isn't the Premier League and favourite-backers will have had their fingers burnt over the past few days courtesy of red-hot favourites like Argentina, Germany and Brazil all failing to win.
Still, it's hard to argue Portugal have all the trump cards including a better starting XI, greater experience at this level, a more worldly manager and the presence of a man who is increasingly laying claim to be one of the Top Five players the game has ever seen.
But we can find better bets than that.
Morocco's defence makes 'unders' price understandable
It's not hard to see why 'unders' is favourite here at 1.74. Morocco showed they can defend well as a unit in that match against Iran and were pretty unfortunate to concede at all. It was a late own goal where there was no danger to speak of, a freak goal.
As for Portugal, 3-3 was a lovely spectacle for the neutral but hardly a result that's typical of what Fernando Santos' men are all about.
The outsiders could prove a tough nut to crack and Portugal wouldn't be the slightest bit fussed about taking 1-0 and cashing the points in. Unders is a justified favourite but not quite the sort of price we're after.
Tight Portugal win an obvious bet but a good one
If you've just read the last few paragraphs you can probably guess where this is heading. But this really is a game that has a low-scoring win for the favourite written all over it.
As much technical ability as Portugal have and as hungry for goals as Ronaldo is, this lot are nothing if not pragmatic. Look no further than their Euro 2016 success where their whole campaign was built around getting over the line rather than delighting or entertaining.
Portugal know that 1-0 or 2-0 would be more than good enough to give them every chance of getting out of the group and they'll hardly be faced with the sort of attacking threat Spainthrew at them. Besides, it's a 9/4 shot and this isn't the time or place for greediness.
Make the layers pay the penalty
This has certainly been the World Cup of the penalty so far. I've already explained on this very website why VAR is more likely to lead to an increase in penalties rather than a decrease in them.
If you'd backed a penalty to be awarded in every game so far at these sort of prices - 21/10- you'd be in clover.
Portugal got one in their first game and there are plenty of livewires on show with quick feet never too far away from a clumsy challenge. Take that price while it lasts.
Key Opta Stats for Portugal v Morocco
Morocco beat Portugal 3-1 in their only previous encounter, in the group stages of the 1986 World Cup. It was Morocco’s first ever win at the tournament. Morocco are6.40 to win again.
Portugal’s only defeat against African opposition at the World Cup came against Morocco in 1986 (1-3) – they’ve won two and drawn one of their subsequent three games against them. A Portugal victory is1.68.
Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Spain in their opening match, making him just the fourth player to score in four separate World Cup tournaments, after Uwe Seeler, Pele and Miroslav Klose. Ronaldo is1.73 to add to his tally.
Cristiano Ronaldo has also scored in eight consecutive major tournaments (World Cup, European Championships, Copa America) for Portugal, the first player in history to do this – the previous record holder was Zizinho, who scored in seven consecutively. He's3.25 to score the first goal.
Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz scored an own-goal against Iran in their opening match, becoming just the third substitute to score an own-goal in a World Cup match, after Laszlo Dajka in 1986 (Hungary v USSR) and Petit in 2006 (Portugal v Germany). Over 2.5 goals is2.24.
Cristiano Ronaldo had scored three goals from 70 shots in his previous three World Cup tournaments combined for Portugal (2006, 2010 and 2014) – at the 2018 World Cup, he has scored three goals from just four shots. Over 3.5 goals is4.30.
Morocco had 68% possession in their 1-0 defeat to Iran, the most by a losing team in a World Cup match since June 2010, when Spain had 73% possession against Switzerland but lost 1-0. A 1-0 win for Portugal is7.00.
Current Portugal manager Fernando Santos has only won one World Cup match (P5 W1 D3 L1). The draw is3.95.
Portugal have not lost against a non-European nation at the World Cup since June 2002, when they lost 1-0 to South Korea (W5 D3 since). The draw half-time/Portugal full-time double result is4.30.
Back Portugal to win + under 2.5 goals @ 9/4 Back a penalty to be awarded @ 21/10