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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

'Cristiano is Cristiano': Jose Fonte grateful to have Captain Incredible on his Portugal team at World Cup

Portugal defender lauds Ronaldo after his goal against Morocco secures European champions’ place in World Cup's last 16

Portugal's Jose Fonte, right, talked up the quality of the Moroccan players after the game on Wednesday. Paulo Novais / EPA
Portugal's Jose Fonte, right, talked up the quality of the Moroccan players after the game on Wednesday. Paulo Novais / EPA

Jose Fonte does not enjoy marking him in training, but is of course thankful to have him on his team.

The Portugal defender was grateful, again, for Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday after his team’s Captain Incredible scored the only goal of the game against Morocco in Moscow. It sealed a victory and secured the European champions’ place in the World Cup's last 16.

It added to Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the Group B opener against Spain, making the Real Madrid star the tournament’s top scorer with four goals. It secured another personal record, as well, with Ronaldo’s 85th goal for Portugal ensuring he now ranks as the most prolific European in international football history.

With Ronaldo in the side, and in this form in Russia, anything seems possible.

“Cristiano is Cristiano,” Fonte said. “He’s the best player in the world. It’s not surprising that he’s doing what he’s doing. He prepares for that. Being Portuguese and having him in the team is just incredible. We know that we have him in the team and he’s a major asset for us. We just have to do our job at the back and he will do his up front.”

Asked what it’s like trying to shackle Ronaldo in training, Fonte replied: “Tough."

Portugal made tough work of their match with Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium, but a combination of Ronaldo’s goal and a litany of spurned opportunities by their opponents secured the win. Spain’s 1-0 victory against Iran later on Wednesday means both Iberian sides are well placed to reach the knockouts.

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More from 2018 World Cup:

Continental drift: out of Africa and seemingly out of the World Cup

Analysis: Why Ronaldo and the set-piece experts are rocking World Cup 2018

WATCH: Riding for Ronaldo, Portugal fan completes road trip to Russia for World Cup and charity

Download: The National's World Cup 2018 wall chart

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With qualification and even top spot in the group at stake against Iran next Monday, Fonte knows that, even with Ronaldo, Portugal must improve.

“Obviously not completely happy with the performance and the way we played,” he conceded. “But having said that, we’re not playing against any weak teams. Everyone in the World Cup has quality.

“Morocco has quality players and they made it very hard. They’re fighting for their lives. But we can do better. And we will work hard on the training ground, because with the quality we have in the squad we have to do better.

"But we won the game, we should be happy with the win. There is no easy game in the World Cup.”