Portugal 1, Morocco Nil: Atlas Lions Sent Packing

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goal that sent Morocco out of the World Cup in Luzhniki, as the two teams met in Moscow for what was ultimately a game defined by physicality. Ronaldo found himself unmarked in the box, and he powered a header past Munir in the 4th minute. Morocco then took control of the game, and dominated the run of play for the rest of the first half. The attacking trident of Nordin Amrabat, Younes Belhanda, and Hakim Ziyech created chance after chance, but the North African side could not find a way through. The second half was much more open, with Portugal creating more chances, but Morocco couldn’t find a way through. Ronaldo had a very subpar game spare his goal, and Nordin Amrabat dominated Raphael Guerrero on the right flank. Morocco have every right to leave the tournament with their heads high, while Portugal need to improve quickly before the knockout stages.


Morocco, Unlucky

Morocco bow out of the World Cup after just two matches, yet anything except for upsets would have seen them in the same place on paper. However, Morocco and Herve Renard can take solace in the manner of their defeats. Were it not for a 95th minute own goal and an unfortunate CR7 header, Morocco would still be very much in the running for the second spot of this group. Indeed, Morocco had two penalty claims in the first half, one of which was not spotted by the referee but looked to be a clear foul. Rui Patricio made some world-class saves on Belhanda in the second half. It took a lot of misfortune for Morocco not to take any points from their first two group stage matches. However the Lions of the Atlas aren’t finished yet, as Morocco can still play the role of spoiler if they can test Spain in their last match.


Portugal: Less Than the Sum of their Parts

Portugal should feel the opposite of Morocco after this game. This one-nil victory should erase any complacency felt after their draw with Spain, as they were overrun by a weaker opponent for a large portion of the game. Joao Mario was a particularly good example of mediocrity on the day, as the Portuguese midfield was largely stifled by the high press of Morocco. Goncalo Guedes was ineffectual up top. Perhaps Portugal need to consider a switch away from the 4-4-2 to best utilize their talents. There is no doubt that they have the raw skill to be one of the best teams in this tournament, but they cannot continue to rely so heavily on Ronaldo to reach those heights.

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Increased Impact of VAR


In this tournament so far, the use of VAR has been heavily discussed. By and large, it appears to have made the game better. Whereas initial detractors believed it would drastically slow down the flow of the game, it has actually done fairly little to impact the pace of play. However, one change that could make it an instant favorite would be to improve the communication between the officials and the fans. In rugby matches, referees wear microphones so that the stadium, and the TV audience, can be privy to the conversations the referee has with the captains of either side during disputes. When there are instances of controversy, say, when there could be a penalty call made by the VAR office (take the Nordin Amrabat penalty appeal in the first half), it would help commentators and fans alike to be able to understand the rationale behind going to replay or opting to keep play going.



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