Morocco enjoyed the best day in its football history by defeating Spain on penalties after Luis Enrique’s team failed to score any of the three penalties.
Although it ended in a 0-0 draw, Morocco’s defense spoiled Spain and created several chances of their own in extra time. Achraf Hakimi dispatched Morocco with an incredibly composed finish, sending their nation further than they’ve ever gone before.
The game was slow, with each side struggling to create clear chances, despite moving the ball around with relative ease. Indeed, it was Morocco who looked more daring in possession, playing admirably around a strong Spanish counter-pressure to advance the ball from defence.
Morocco also cleverly kept Spain’s fulcrum Sergio Busquets out of the game, pressing their pass-maker throughout, ensuring they completed fewer than 25 passes in the first half, well short of their usual numbers. Sofiane Boufal seemed to outpace Marcos Llorente, playing his first few minutes of the tournament at right-back. Nayef Ajrd nodded the best chance for Walid Regragui’s team.
Despite this good work, it was Spain who had slightly better chances in normal time. Ferran Torres and Javi could both score – although offside was a concern – while Marco Asensio fired a shot into the near side netting shortly after.
With 10 minutes remaining, Álvaro Morata managed to see home after fine work from fine substitute Neco Williams, but his shot went across the face of the goal, narrowly missing the far corner.
Seconds before the end of normal time, Badri’s direct free kick from the wing avoided any touch, but Morocco goalkeeper Bounou was on an impressive alert to push the cross wide of the goal.
Walid Chedira might have had a chance for Morocco early in extra time. Head on with Unai Simon, try his shot. The flag was raised, but replays showed he might have had a good chance had he scored.
Spain were the more dominant team going into extra time and Morocco were more than happy to sit back, but they still struggled to create clear chances, frustrated by their calm and committed defence. Instead, Cheddira created another chance with hard feet, only to shoot straight at Simon from eight yards. His night wasn’t over yet – he raced fast after 114 minutes, only to lose energy and fail to get a shot.
But then, with less than a minute left, Pablo Sarabia’s massive shot flew past Bono, hitting the far post. Penalties were – hardly.
Decisive moment of Spain against Morocco
For a long time, the key for Spain against Morocco was the moment that wasn’t – blocking half the chance either side desired.
But then came the penalties. Speaking the day before the match, Spain coach Luis Enrique said: “Yes, more than a year ago in my training camps I told my players you had homework before the World Cup, you must take 1,000 penalties with your club.”
Morocco scored the first penalty through Abdelhamid Essabiri, before Sarabia, who could have won it in extra time, hit the post with Spain’s first penalty.
Hakim Ziyech took full advantage, firing the ball down the middle, before Bono saved Carlos Soler’s poor penalty kick.
Unai Simon then pulled Spain back into the penalty shootout, saving another weak effort from Badr Bennoun.
This sparked Busquets, whose tough game got even tougher, as Bono sprinted to his right to save the best of the evening. Hakimi had the chance to win it – and although Dink didn’t have time to be accurately named ‘Panenka’, he found his way past Simon to send Morocco into the quarter-finals.
quarterback Soufiane Amrabat was flawless. for him The tireless work rate in midfield was crucial to Busquets’ closure, while his defensive passes to Chedira gave Morocco hope going into extra time.
The Morocco coach expects him to play for “one of the big European clubs” after the tournament, while also being the starting man against Belgium in a 2-0 win in the group stage.
Hakimi also expressed his admiration for the Paris Saint-Germain winger. His commitment to defensive duties has been questioned at club level, but the 24-year-old has been a dynamo of both ends throughout. Capable of an astonishing range of passing, unmatched by world football’s Trent Alexander-Arnold full-back, Morocco’s most dangerous moment came when Hakimi found a modicum of freedom down the left. He also kept Dani Olmo and Pedri impressively calm.
Amrabat with one of the best performances in the tournament. Back to his best Verona
– James Horncastle December 6, 2022
A key statistic
All of Spain’s last five matches in major tournaments have gone to overtime.
2018 WC R16: L 1-1 (4-3 on penalties) vs. Russia
Euro 2020 R16: W 5-2 against Croatia
Euro 2020 QF: W 1-1 (3-1 on penalties) against Switzerland
Euro 2020 SF: L 1-1 (4-2 on penalties) vs Italy
2022 WC R16: L 0-0 (3-1 on penalties) against Morocco
Morocco will advance to the quarter-finals on Saturday night at El Thumama Stadium, where they will play the winners from Portugal and Switzerland, who will play later on Tuesday.
This side of the draw is set to meet the winner from England against France, who will also play on Saturday.
(Photo: Getty Images)