Portugal 1-0 Morocco: Ronaldo papers over poor performance

For many years Portugal charmed with a showy way of playing, but never conquered. Two years ago they presented unattractive football and went from draw to draw, but claimed the European title. Now Portugal seem to be playing even worse, but they have four points in Group B and are close to the knockout stage.

The game with Morocco was one of the worst in Fernando Santos’ tenure, but another goal from Cristiano Ronaldo (his fourth in this tournament) secured a hard-fought 1-0 win. It was an unfair result for Hervé Renard’s team, who became the first team eliminated in the group stage.

Now with 85 goals for Seleção, Ronaldo became the all-time best scorer of European national teams, and only behind Iran’s Ali Daei in the overall ranking (109 goals). Portugal’s captain made less than half of the points he recorded against Spain, but his was still the first name on the leader board.


Even so it’s illustrative that Cristiano had more important actions in a defensive role (five) than offensive (two).


Just like five days ago, Portugal had an excellent start and scored after only four minutes, adding yet another goal scored from set pieces in this tournament. But after that the European champions were once again unable to control the game with the ball. “Many wrong passes, bad circulation…and when a team doesn’t have the ball it has to run and gets tired. It’s like a snow ball”, said Fernando Santos after the game.

With pressing, while being intense and dynamic, the African team proved to be a very tough opponent. Ziyech comes just after Cristiano on the leader board, but Belhanda also deserves credit, and Nordin Amrabat’s speed was a permanent headache for Raphael Guerreiro.


Morocco had more ball possession (53%) and more attempts on target (4-2). They created enough chances to get a better result, but the Portuguese defenders made good performances, as the leader board indicates. That includes the goalkeeper too, with Rui Patrício rated as #1 in the defensive rankings (and deservedly so, in part due to the amazing save he made in the 57th minute).


It’s also interesting to see that José Fonte was the second player with most errors, after João Moutinho, but also the second best on the defensive ranking. Portugal’s nº 6 lost three aerial duels (Pepe and Cédric only lost one, for example), but compensated with thirteen positive actions.


In attack, Gonçalo Guedes played next to Ronaldo once again, but had another discrete display, focused mainly on defensive tasks. João Mário was the only new face on the team, but got even fewer points than Guedes. But with only one important action, and a defensive one (a ball recovery) at that, Bernardo Silva was the Portuguese player with the fewest points among those who started the match.


“It seems that the team feels a lack of confidence to have the ball”, said the manager after the game, assuming that it’s necessary to raise the bar. Although Portugal won, playing worse is never better.

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