EDUCATION CITY, Qatar — Morocco overpowered Spain to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. Right-back Achraf Hakimi scored the winning penalty in a shoot-out after a 0-0 draw in Education City.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Hakimi scored from a Panenka penalty after Spain missed three penalties and were eliminated in a 3-0 penalty shootout defeat. And Morocco made history by reaching their first quarter-finals and also becoming the first Arab nation to reach this stage of the tournament.
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1. Amazing Morocco makes history by defeating Spain
Morocco will play a World Cup quarter-finals for the first time after eliminating 2010 world champions Spain in Education City. And the so-called Atlas Lions are now one step away from making history as the first African nation to reach the semi-finals by beating either Portugal or Switzerland in the round of 16 on Saturday.
Coach Walid Regragui’s side went into this game having conceded just one goal in the tournament – an own goal – and their defensive organization was crucial in defeating Luis Enrique’s side. Morocco rarely seemed troubled by Spain, but their inability to score themselves in regular time and extra time saw the game go to penalties.
And it was here that goalkeeper Yassine Bounou became an international star, saving penalties from Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler and watching Pablo Sarabia hit a post as Spain suffered the shame of losing a penalty shoot-out without scoring a single penalty. The defeat means Spain have now lost four of their five World Cup penalty shootouts.
For Morocco, however, the chance has now opened up to get even further up the field at this World Cup. No matter who they face in the next round, they won’t be overshadowed by their opponents and could still advance to the semi-finals against England or France. In the first World Cup to be hosted in an Arab country, Morocco’s progress ensures the entire region still has a team to stand behind.
2. Spain lack goals
Spain was an anomaly at Qatar 2022. Only England (12) have scored more goals than Spain, who scored ten in the group stage, but despite these figures, Luis Enrique’s side have practically no goal threat against well-organized opponents.
The 7-0 win over Costa Rica in their opening game skewed the picture for the 2010 world champions as they tried everything against Morocco and never looked to score. Enrique started with Marco Asensio ahead of Alvaro Morata but the Real Madrid striker offered little threat, only able to hit the side netting with his only clear first-half chance.
But Morata, coming on just after the hour mark, was little better. He made more penetrating runs than Asensio, but his degree and awareness meant he made nothing of the opportunities he created. Enrique was too slow to throw Nico Williams and Ansu Fati into action.
When they came on as a substitute, the two forwards made the difference and allowed Spain to get behind the well-organized Moroccan defence. They were eliminated from this tournament because they had no cutting edge when it counted.
3. Morocco fans drive team forward
If the World Cup final in Qatar 2022 was decided by the best supporters, we would all look forward to a clash between Argentina and Morocco at the Lusail Stadium. You must have heard all about the Argentinian fans – they were amazing in terms of their numbers, their songs and the way they filled every stadium with a sea of blue and white. But Moroccan supporters were similarly loud and passionate. This game brought out the best in them.
Deep-rooted historical and geographic tensions between Spain and Morocco added real spice to the atmosphere, but it was a display of incredible color and noise from the Moroccan fans that allowed their team to make the game so difficult for Spain. But Moroccan support within Education City went beyond supporting Walid Regragui’s team. As the last African team in the competition, they already carried the hopes of a continent, but the presence of Morocco as a team from an Arab country also counts at the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Below the Moroccan flags were many Palestinian flags, which could be seen at every game involving a North African or Middle Eastern side, and Morocco coach Regragui said before the game that his side knew they were representing more than just their country.
“We come with a winning mentality, we want to fly our Moroccan flag,” he said. “And yes, all Arabs and Africans. We want your prayers and your support. It used to be just the Moroccans, now we’re going to add the Africans and the Arabs.” For Morocco to reach the quarter-finals is huge for this World Cup and for the region.
Player ratings (1=worst, 10=best)
Morocco: Yassine Bounou 9; Achraf Hakimi 7, Nayef Aguerd 8; Romain Saiss 7, Noussair Mazraoui 7; Azzedine Ounahi 6, Sofyan Amrabat 6, Selim Amallah 6; Hakim Ziyech (7), Youssef En-Nesyri (6), Sofiane Boufal (7).
subs: Abde Ezzalzouli 6, Walid Cheddira 5, Abdelhamid Sabiri 7, Yahya Attiat-Allah 6, Jawad El Yamiq 6, Badr Benoun 6
Spain: Unai Simon 7; Marcos Llorente (6th), Rodri (8th), Aymeric Laporte (7th), Jordi Alba (6th); 6 Gavi, 6 Sergio Busquets, 6 Pedri; Ferran Torres (5), Marco Asensio (5), Dani Olmo (6).
Subtitle: Alvaro Morata (6), Carlos Soler (6), Nico Williams (7), Ansu Fati (7), Alejandro Balde (6), Pablo Sarabia (6).
Best and worst performers
BEST: Yassine Bounou
What a great performance by the Moroccan goalkeeper in the penalty shoot-out. Stunning saves against Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler.
Worst: Marco Asensio
Asensio, picked ahead of the in-form Alvaro Morata to lead the Spaniards’ attack, had few chances but he should have done much better with the ones he had.
Highlights and notable moments
Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi stepped up to send Morocco to their first World Cup quarter-finals.
HAKIMI WIN IT FOR MOROCCO
MOROCCO CONTINUES 🇲🇦 pic.twitter.com/zlA17MUgYes
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 6, 2022
After the game: What the players and coaches said
Moroccan player Bilal El Khannouss: “We made Morocco’s history. Morocco had never qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup. What an incredible day for us! We did it together. We have a great team. The head coach created a great team spirit. We’re working on it believed us and in the fact that we could beat them and we did it. We didn’t prepare for penalties yesterday. We didn’t train.”
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou: “We have felt the support of our fans, be it in Morocco or any other country in the world, it gives us the impetus to deliver such a performance. When you’re in the thick of it you can’t really see what you’ve achieved, we need to stay focused, but maybe with time we’ll realize what we’ve just achieved.”
Spain’s Sergio Busquets: “It was difficult for us. We tried to tire them out, to find rooms. Sometimes we made it and we lacked a bit of luck, the last ball or the goal. It’s always heads or tails [with penalties]. We missed the first three penalties so it’s very difficult.”
Spain coach Luis Enrique: “We have to congratulate the winners. They played their game, it went well, they beat us on penalties. I think kids need to learn how to lose, whether you deserve it or not.”
“Football is a wonderful, passionate sport, but a team can win without attacking. Morocco attacked once or twice and were dangerous, but we completely dominated the game and tried to create. We would have liked to have done more. It was It was difficult for us. We had 11 shots I think but very few on target. Pablo Sarabia hit the post in the last move of the game. The penalty shootout was tough for us. But I’m proud of my players.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Gavi: At 18 years 123 days, Gavi is the youngest man to start in a FIFA World Cup knockout stage match since Pele in the 1958 final (17 years 249 days).
– This is the seventh game to end 0-0 at the 2022 World Cup — along with most 0-0 games at a single men’s World Cup (2014, 2010, 2006 and 1982).
– Spain: eliminated on penalties in the third consecutive major tournament.
– Spain ends with a shot on goal. That accounts for the fewest shots on target in a FIFA World Cup match since 1966, they’ve done it three more times. The last was against France in the round of 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where they lost 3-1.
Morocco: The Atlas Lions meet winners Portugal-Switzerland in their first World Cup Quarterfinals at 10:00 am ET on Saturday.
Spain: Luis Enrique’s side were eliminated from the World Cup and will contest UEFA EURO qualifiers in spring 2023.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4826730/morocco-make-history-shock-spain-to-reach-world-cup-quarterfinals Morocco make history, shock Spain to reach World Cup quarterfinals