Spot-on Morocco sink Spain to keep Africa's World Cup dream alive

Morocco's players throw Morocco's coach Walid Regragui in the air as they celebrate at the end of their Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 match against Spain at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on December 6, 2022.

Photo credit: Jack Guez | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The African side won the shoot-out 3-0 after Spain failed to convert all three of their spot kicks.

In Doha

Morocco became the fourth African nation in the history of the World Cup to qualify for the quarter-final.

And it was a cold, calculating strategy by their coach Walid Regragui that got them into the last eight of this edition, knocking out 2010 champions Spain in penalty shoot-outs after a barren draw in 120 minutes of open play at a packed to capacity Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Abdelhamid Sabiri, Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi slotted home their spot kicks while Spain remarkably failed to score from their three penalty kicks taken, Morocco’s Seville goalkeeper Yaccine Bounou saving two, while one hit the bar.

Education City Stadium, with an official attendance figure of 44,667, was almost entirely filled with the lively Moroccan support that has been loudly present at every game the Atlas Lions have played in.

And they were not disappointed as Morocco joined the great teams of Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) in that elevated company of nations from the continent that have played in the quarter-finals.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui, tossed up by his players in celebration at the stadium, had two days earlier warned that even though they respected Spain they would pull a surprise on them.

He clearly had a game plan, which was to pack the bus and rely on counter attacking football, and eventually penalty kicks.

“We dominated the game but did not score. Morocco were very defensive. They were better than us in the penalties,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

Spain kept the ball from the first whistle with their usual passing game but found it difficult to break down the organized Moroccan defence, marshalled by West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd.

Morocco were the first to make an attempt on goal on 10 minutes when PSG rightback Hakimi sent his free kick sailing over the bar from 40 metres out.

Spain should surely have opened the scoring midway through the half when the Moroccan backline failed to clear but Ferran Torres could only shake the crossbar with a yawning goal in front of him. But it would not have counted with Argentine referee Fernando Repallini blowing for offside.

Morocco tested the Spanish when they got the ball, Selime Amallah with a long range shot gathered at the second attempt by Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon in the 32nd minute.

Aguerd should have done better, heading his effort wide from a delicious delivery as the north Africans threatened to break the deadlock minutes to the break.

The pattern of play was no different in the second half with Spain seemingly in control but unable to get the breakthrough.

Leipzig forward Dani Olmo sent Bounou scampering to push the ball out at full stretch in Spain’s best effort of the second half late on.

Thirty minutes of extra time failed to produce a winner sending the game into the nervy penalty kicks nervelessly executed by the Moroccans.

Morocco are now unbeaten in their last five World Cup matches.


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