Cristiano Ronaldo aims to follow up on his hat-trick against Spain when European champions Portugal meet Morocco and their unlucky own-goal man Aziz Bouhaddouz in their second World Cup match today. Ronaldo's treble in a thrilling 3-3 draw with former world champions Spain, the last goal being a late free-kick, has put him top of the scorers' list early on. The golden boot for the best World Cup scorer is still eluding him but he has at least joined an elite group of Brazil icon Pele and the German duo of Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose to have scored in four World Cups. His brilliance could be the key again at the Luzhniki Stadium when Portugal aims to break down a Morocco defense that didn't concede a single goal in their final qualifying group and only had to bow 1-0 to Iran in their World Cup opener because of Bouhaddouz' stoppage-time mishap. The opening results means that neither side can really afford to lose the match in Group B.
Ronaldo from Champions League winners Real Madrid and Bouhaddouz from German second division side St Pauli somewhat represent opposite ends of the footballing spectrum. Ronaldo's rubbing his chin gesture has been interpreted as a direct answer to Lionel Messi's pre-tournament photo with goats as the two rivals continue their quest for GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status in which, at least so far in Russia, Ronaldo has the upper hand.
"He has an incredible mind," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said of his star.
Midfielder Adrien Silva said: "He is a role model for all of us, not only in the game but also in the way he leads the team. It is an honor to share the dressing room with him."
Santos may be concerned how heavily Portugal relied on Ronaldo on Friday. Valencia's Goncalo Guedes twice passed up good opportunities - one to pass and one to shoot - on the counter-attack, while wide men Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes made little impact. Ronaldo said he expects "a hard game" against Morocco and AC Milan's Andre Silva said the north Africands have "excellent players" that "we can't underestimate."
Morocco in general and Bouhaddouz in particular will be out to redeem themselves after their unlucky defeat which came after they had dominated almost the entire match against Iran but wasted several chances which eventually backfired.
"Now I hope that we can win against Portugal," he said defiantly. "We know we have the quality. But we must improve in the next game. Portugal won't be easy for us."
Bouhaddouz was heart-broken after his mishap but also said there is more to life despite the immense importance of the World Cup, such as becoming a father soon.
"Unfortunately football can be like this but there are other things I am looking forward to," he said.
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