MOSCOW (Reuters) - 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 to realistically keep alive their interest in the tournament but mindful that the genius of the Portugal captain could send them toward 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 on Tuesday.
“He’s absolutely outstanding, exceptional and we might not be good enough to keep him out. But we have to do our utmost to make him less exceptional tomorrow,” Renard added at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.
The Morocco coach might consider taking a leaf out of Iceland’s play book after they had up to three players at times harrying Lionel Messi and restricting his ability to play.
It was a ploy that played a large part in the surprise 1-1 Group D draw that Iceland forced against Argentina on Saturday.
“Well if you have three players watching Ronaldo, what about looking after their other players?” asked Renard.
“They have so many attacking players, we are playing against European champions tomorrow. Don’t forget in the final of Euro 2016 against France, Ronaldo went off early in the game through injury and his team mates were still able to take the title.
“Obviously he’s a major player and, together with Messi, the biggest star in this tournament.
“What we need to do, is get a good night’s sleep and if this is the last time in our careers that we play against Ronaldo, we need to be as good as possible,” Renard said.
Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Spain on Friday underlined his superstar status and sparked the tournament into life.
Morocco, who conceded a stoppage time own goal to lose against Iran in their opener, cannot afford a second defeat.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Nizhny Novgorod; Editing by Ken Ferris