• Opposition Scouting Report: How can Morocco defeat Portugal?

    Introduction

    Portugal have developed a reputation of being difficult to beat, and they have a real doggedness and resilience about them.

    With Cristiano Ronaldo, they boast a genuine elite superstar, while they also offer experience and the nous of how to win major tournaments.

    However, with an ageing defence, how will they cope with pace and dynamism, and how would they fare if Ronaldo has an off day?

    Their 3-3 draw with Spain had it all, and while La Roja were the better side, Ronaldo reminded the watching world how lethal he can be on the big occasion.

    Ex-Zambia assistant coach and current Queens Park Rangers analyst Irfan Kawri outlines how Morocco can silence Ronaldo and neutralise Portugal.

    How can Morocco neutralise Portugal's strengths?

    Ronaldo showcased his many qualities against Spain, particularly his pace, and ability to drive and link-up play quickly in transition.

    He was the main out-ball for his team, and at times Portugal went long and direct to him.

    On a number of occasions, he peeled out wide to the left and got on the ball.

    He was the main threat for his team and if Morocco can keep him quiet, they have a real chance...but how do they do that?

    The Atlas Lions have to get tight and make life difficult for him. They must be aggressive, and get in his face.

    Spain's expansive possession-based approach suited Ronaldo, as he had space to exploit in transition. Morocco must completely reduce this space.

    For the first few minutes against Spain, Portugal did surprise me as they really went for it and committed a number of player forward, including full-back Raphael Guerreiro.

    They attacked Spain, and got their reward early.

    After the goal, there was a period in the first half where Portugal showed their good organisation off the ball, with two banks of four and the two ahead.

    Both Ronaldo and Goncalo Guedes sat in and never pressed the Spain centre-backs. Instead, they dropped as Portugal employed a middle-to-low block.

    They were compact, resilient, and had good distances between the lines, at least for the first half an hour.

    With this approach, it is imperative that Morocco move the ball quickly and get it in wide areas early, particularly if the switch of play is on.

    Portugal showed some really good counter-attacking play, finding themselves in good positions quickly after retrieving the ball.

    It is important that Morocco do not over commit and have balance and security to their play, otherwise Portugal can hurt them. Spain certainly found themselves in 2v2 and 3v2 overload situations far too often.

    In possession, the left-back Guerreiro got in good attacking positions, supporting the play with his mobility and dynamism.

    Morocco must be wary of a potential 2v1 on their right-back - likely Nabil Dirar - and make sure he has cover and support. The absence of Nordin Amrabat, their most impressive player against Iran, could prove costly here.

    Portugal proved they can be tactically flexible, and Fernando Santos effectively changed things up with offensive substitutions against Spain. Herve Renard must be wary of the changing shape and face of the game as it develops.

    How can Morocco exploit Portugal's weaknesses?

    Both Pepe and Jose Fonte can be got at, just look at Diego Costa's first goal as he bullied the former, outmuscling him, he then twisted and turned Fonte in a tight space before scoring after making space with his footwork.

    In Khalid Boutaib, do Morocco have a player who can bully the centre-backs in a similar way?

    Apart from Ronaldo, there was not that much attacking threat as Portugal only had the three attempts at goal which were all CR7's goals.

    They heavily rely on Ronaldo, and if he does have an off-day this could jeopardise their chances of winning. As noted above, Morocco must exploit and expose this over-reliance.

    After the first half hour against Spain, La Roja began to find some rhythm and exploit the space Portugal left between the lines.

    Spain's movement, interchange and combination play began to get the better of Portugal, and this kind of intricacy and speed of passing is not necessarily beyond Morocco.

    With the left-back Guerreiro bombing on down his flank, there was a massive space in behind which left Fonte exposed.

    If Morocco can hit this space early, they can demonstrate their offensive qualities and pick at Portugal's weakest centre-back.

    Morocco can really get at both Pepe and Fonte with quick play in and around their feet. They must run-in behind, down the sides, in the channels and drive at them to expose those creaking legs.

    In the second-half, there were times when the midfield four pushed ahead off the ball, but the back four didn't join them, leaving too much space between the lines.

    This has the potential to be a gift for Morocco, and is a glaring weakness that Renard must exploit. If they can use that space, they can isolate the centre-backs one on one.

    Conclusion

    Portugal did demonstrate their ability to have a good defensive shape and be organised off the ball for periods and had good moments on the counter, but Spain, when they got going, showed how their neighbours can be troubled.

    Ronaldo was the European champions' saving grace and helped mask their failings.

    If Morocco can stop him - easier said than done - then Portugal's goal threat beyond him looks limited.

    http://global.espn.com/football/morocco/story/3535265/world-cup-how-can-morocco-defeat-portugal

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