Group B: Portugal 1-0 Morocco
Ronaldo scores his fourth goal of tournament
Group A: Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his fourth goal of the World Cup to become the second-highest goalscorer in men’s international football and, in the process, earn Portugal a nervy 1-0 win over Morocco.
The Real Madrid star followed up his hattrick against Spain on Friday with a fourth-minute header which was his 85th goal for his country in 152 games.
No other European player has scored as many as the Portuguese and only Ali Daei, with 109 goals for Iran, is above him in the scoring charts.
Before the match Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his team must not solely rely on their captain but, once again, it was Ronaldo who proved to be the match winner, though his performance was not as spectacular as his display in the 3-3 draw against Spain.
The result puts Portugal, with four points from two games, in a strong position to progress from Group B while Morocco become the first team to be eliminated from the tournament after a second defeat in as many games.
Following Morocco out of the competition are Saudi Arabia, who succumbed to a 1-0 loss to Uruguay in Wednesday’s second match.
Saudi Arabia’s failure to beat the South Americans also means Group A rivals Egypt are eliminated before the final round of group matches and hosts Russia progress to the last 16.
Morocco dominate, Portugal fail to impress
Morocco will rue giving Ronaldo too much freedom in the six-yard box. The Portugal captain’s performance against Spain alone was warning enough of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s ruthlessness.
A canny run from the Portugal’s No.7 bamboozled Manuel da Costa, leaving Ronaldo –who against Spain became the first man to score in eight consecutive major tournaments – on his own to send a stooping header into the net.
But Portugal’s supremacy was confined to the scoreshee, because for possession, passes made and attempts on goal Morocco were the superior team.
Noureddine Arabat and Hakim Ziyach were particularly impressive as Morocco targeted Portugal down the flanks. But despite their best efforts, Morocco were unable to conjure an equalizer.
The North African team, who lost to Iran in their opening match courtesy of a 95th-minute own goal, were even more threatening after the break.
Twice they went close before the hour through Younes Belhanda, the forward’s second effort - a bullet header towards the corner – brilliantly saved by Rui Patricio.
Minutes later and Khalid Boutaib should’ve done better other than to shoot over the crossbar and as the game entered the final minutes there was only one team in it – but the score revealed a different story.
Ronaldo had opportunities to double this team’s lead, but in the 50th minute he surprisingly shot high and wild when he had oodles of time to compose himself and his two freekicks were thumped straight into Morocco’s wall.
The captain also put through Goncalo Guedes before the break only for the forward to shoot directly at Monir El Kajoui.
Portugal’s misses mattered little, however, as the European champions secured their first win of Russia 2018.
Centurion Suarez scores the winner
Uruguay progressed to the knockout stages for a third consecutive World Cup thanks to Luis Suarez’s first-half winner.
Barcelona striker Suarez scored on his 100th international appearance, ensuring Uruguay have now won their opening two matches at a World Cup for the first time since 1954.
It was the 31-year-old’s 52nd goal for his country and one of his simplest, side-footing into the net from six yards following a corner. The generosity of Saudi Arabia’s defense meant Suarez also becomes the first Uruguayan to score at three World Cups.
Coming into this match on the back of a 5-0 defeat by hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia improved from their opening game but lacked verve in the final third to trouble a defensive Uruguayan outfit.
They neatly kept possession but the best chances fell to Uruguay, with Carlos Sanchez missing the simplest opportunity of the second half, heading a brilliant Edinson Cavani cross over the crossbar.
If entertainment wasn’t at premium, thanks to Suarez, Uruguay will celebrate joining Russia in the knockout stages and will now prepare to battle it out with the hosts on June 25 in a match which will decide who will top Group A.