Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal can celebrate, but it was not a victory of confidence. (Carl Recine / Reuters)
MOSCOW – Everything wonderful and rotten of the World Cup came to the surface at Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
We'll start with the good, because that's why people traveled great distances and are spending lots of rubles to attend. That is why hundreds of millions around the blue planet will see in various electronic devices at all hours for four weeks.
The goodness was on display before four minutes had pbaded in the Portugal-Morocco match when that handsome devil, Cristiano Ronaldo, continued his career. Hellacious start to this tournament by abandoning a defender and nodding a cross into the net.
His fourth goal in two games was lifted, but barely, when Portugal dodged one threat after another before escaping with a 1-0 victory.  With four points, the European champions are on the cusp of a spot in the round of 16 in Group B, and a possible confrontation with happy Russia.
"If we lost, we could be out," Ronaldo said. Instead, "we're almost there"
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Now the bad: Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the former president of FIFA, the contaminated ruling body of football, came to Russia to attend two games this week.
In doing so, it has overshadowed a lively tournament and rekindled obscure memories of a corruption scandal that paralyzed the sport three years ago and led to numerous federal allegations.
Found guilty by FIFA of financial misconduct, Blatter, 82, is banned. serving in sports for another 3½ years. Nothing, however, prevents you from buying a ticket or accepting an invitation to look in a VIP area. In this case, the latter applied.
Who would invite him? The Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
Blatter helped direct support for Russia's bid for the World Cup, which, like Qatar's victory in the race to host the 2022 tournament, was marred by accusations of bribery. (Putin did not attend on Wednesday.)
The name of Blatter is not on the official list of personalities present, issued by FIFA at the start of the match. While Gianni Infantino, Blatter's successor, watched from the FIFA suite, Blatter was elsewhere at the luxury level. He also plans to attend the Brazil-Costa Rica event on Friday in St. Petersburg.
Trying to rehabilitate his career, and maybe follow the current leadership of FIFA, he has accepted several interviews, signed autographs and posed for photographs. FIFA has not commented on his presence.
Well, back to the game. Ronaldo gave the advantage in a six-yard header, his 85th goal (in 152 appearances) to set the record for all-time European football goals in international matches. He had been tied with the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas (84 in 85 matches from 1945 to & # 39; 56).
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Bernardo Silva played a short corner to Joao Moutinho, who landed a cross at the edge of the six-yard area. Manuel da Costa lost the track of Ronaldo, an error that, given the distance, was deadly.
A day earlier, Morocco coach Herve Renard said his team should make Ronaldo "less exceptional". Failure.
After the match, Renard said, "the most gifted players are the ones who make the difference".
In addition to Portugal's opponents, Ronaldo is locked in an unofficial competition with his mega-star colleague, Argentine Lionel Messi. Until now, it's an explosion. The Real Madrid forward leads the tournament in goals; Messi missed a penalty and was widely controlled by Iceland on Saturday.
"It's like a good port wine," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said of his 33-year-old ace. "He knows how to refine his game, he's constantly evolving, he knows what he can do, he knows himself and he knows how to improve himself."
Ronaldo's four goals were due to a mistake in the goal, a penalty kick, a scandalous free kick and now a header. He had scored a goal in each of his three previous World Cups.
Renard thought that the goal should have been canceled because the Portuguese defender Pepe eliminated a Moroccan player from the ball. "Take a good look [at replays] and look at what [Pepe] is doing," he told a room full of reporters. "And write the truth."
Santos responded by saying: "The first foul was really the player from Morocco and then Pepe defended himself"
U.S. referee Mark Geiger had no problems and allowed the goal to stay.
The leadership of Portugal was not hermetic, in any way. Morocco (without points) forced the problem and generated numerous opportunities, which were undermined by unruly shots and the goal of Rui Patricio.
Return to Ronaldo: There are few moments in football, perhaps in all sports, that rustle with anticipation more than those few seconds before I execute a free kick.
In the 32nd minute, with a 21-yard free kick, Ronaldo tried to repeat the sensational set in the final moments of Friday's 3-3 draw with Spain. This time, he hit him against the wall. (The same happened in the final moments of the game.)
There were other opportunities to save the match and increase his total scoring. At the beginning of the second half, he ran towards a ball rolling inside the penalty area and lined up a thunderous blow that would surely send Morocco to the brink of defeat. His effort went into the section of Moroccan followers.
However, Ronaldo returned to govern the day, no matter how hard Blatter tried.
– Steven Goff
Portugal: vs. Iran in Saransk, June 25, 2 pm
Morocco: vs. Spain in Kaliningrad, June 25, 2 pm
Uruguay, Luis Suárez faces Saudi Arabia
Iran vs. Spain: The Red Fury needs a victory
Hey, it's Ronaldo
In the 84th minute, it's the turn of a careless clear of Morocco and Ronaldo – unheard of during a Very long stretch – it gets dirty inches out of the box. His free shot hits the wall.
Fayçal Fajr replaces Karim El Ahmadi, and Morocco is left out of the substitutes.
Minutes later, Joao Joao Moutinho leaves and Adrien Silva goes to Portugal, who is also out of the substitutes. . Silva takes a yellow card for a missed takedown minutes later.
Another sub for Morocco
Mehdi Carcela-González enters for Morocco, replacing Younes Belhanda in the 75th minute. The latter had a good stretch in the second half.
Now, Amrabat is attacking the left side of the field. Interesting.
The Portuguese frazzled
Before Morocco's free kick in the 67th minute – Ziyach sent it well over the crossbar – the Portuguese players begged coach Fernando Santos to make some changes in defense to defend against this relentless attack . He responded by sending Bruno Fernandes for Joao Mario (Fernandes started the inaugural match of the Portuguese World Cup in front of Mario).
Meanwhile, Ayoub El Kaabi is on his way to Morocco, replacing Khalid Boutaib at the top.
Gelson Martins enters for Bernardo Silva in the minute 59.
More restlessness on the part of Portugal
The favorites are still doing no favor, giving the ball in the center of the field lethargically in numerous occasions during the first 10 minutes of the second half. Morocco continues to press after the failures, and in minute 55, Younes Belhanda sent a rocket that Patricia had to reach to stop him.
Two minutes later, Patricio has saved the game, again in Belhanda, who led a free game. kick towards the goal Patrick dives with all his height to save him.
Half time: Portugal 1, Morocco 0
The scoring line says that Portugal is winning, but that is far from being evident in the field. Amrabat's ability to run the ball past Portugal's defense on the right side is giving the favorite all kinds of problems. All the Atlas Lions need is a clean cross and we are talking about a completely different game.
In the 39th minute, Ronaldo beats the ball to Gonçalo Guedes, who took a step forward in defense at the box. However, El Kajoui is able to save the ball.
Less than a minute later, Mehdi Benatia of Morocco receives a yellow card after being warned repeatedly. The crowd seems eminently in favor of Morocco, and they are not happy with the calls. Morocco has been whistled for 10 fouls, 5 by Portugal.
More from Morocco
Take the goal and it's been all Morocco, whose attack is best described as frantic.
Mehdi Benatia pushes Ronaldo to the grbad from behind in the 25th minute and receives a tough reading from referee Mark Geiger. Ronaldo stirred a little clutching his ankle, but returned.
Morocco coach Herve Renard also starts talking after vehemently protesting the lack of a call when Nordpa Amrabat is defeated by Raphael Guerreiro in – or at least very close to – the box. Without revision, play.
Morocco does not regress
In addition to a questionable mark of the best player in the world – Ronaldo had another good attempt not long after his goal – Morocco is not establishing itself, which forced Rui Patricio to get and made a serve of a header in the 11th minute. They have already had several good chances.
In the fourth minute, who else: Ronaldo heads after a short corner shot is delivered directly to his skull. Nifty takes a step around the defender in the box to free himself, and he has done it again. It is the 85th international goal of his career, beating Ferenc Puskas of Hungary in as much as possible for a European player.
New look for Ronaldo?
Everyone talks about the clover of Cristiano Ronaldo in the last week fascinating draw 3-3 with Spain, but let's not forget that one of those goals should not have happened: the goalkeeper of Spain, David De Gea, He showed that he had usually stopped late in the first half, when Spain dominated. A saving there, and the period before Wednesday's clash with Morocco could have had a completely different issue. As things stand, Portugal wants nothing less than a victory here.
Nordin Amrabat will play for Morocco even after playing poorly with Iranian Vahid Amiri in the disappointing 1-0 defeat last week, suffering a concussion. With the games looming against Portugal and Spain, the Atlas Lions desperately needed at least a point against Iran, a hope that faded when Aziz Bouhaddouz headed the ball into his own net in overtime in the second half. Morocco needs at least a draw with Portugal to have any chance in the knockout round, a big task.
Portugal: Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Mario, Guedes, Ronaldo.
Morocco: Mohamedi, Dirar, Da Costa, Benatia, Hakimi, El Ahmadi, Boussoufa, Belhanda, Harit, Boutaib, Ziyech.
Note: Joao Mario replaces Bruno Fernandes on the left side of Portugal's midfield. For Morocco, Manuel Da Costa – son of a Portuguese father and Moroccan mother – replaces Romain Saïss at the center of his defense.
– Matt Bonesteel
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