Qarar World Cup: Morocco dispatch Spain to become fourth African Country to reach last 8
Spain’s bid to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 2010 ended in frustration and failure on Tuesday as they missed all of their spot-kicks in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco.
After 120 minutes of goalless domination, in which they racked up 1019 passes, Luis Enrique’s side capitulated in the shoot-out with Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missing, the latter two efforts saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
It left Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi with the chance to win it which he did with a Panenka to send Morocco through to the last eight for the first time.
Morocco and their boisterous supporters celebrated wildly with Spain left looking bewildered, and no doubt questioning their approach.
Luis Enrique’s men enjoyed almost 77 per cent possession over the 120 minutes but created just one shot on target from it.
The closest Spain came in the first half was after 26 minutes when Jordi Alba lifted a ball over the top for Marco Asensio but the Real Madrid midfielder, playing in a false nine position, lashed his shot into the sidenetting.
When Morocco did spring forward they did so with purpose with left-winger Sofiane Boufal giving makeshift right-back Marcos Llorente a torrid evening.
Boufal carved out Morocco’s best chance of the first half, beating Llorente and crossing for Nayef Aguerd but the defender could only head over from six yards.
The second half continued in a similar vein, although Morocco’s counter attacks were becoming more infrequent.
Luis Enrique had seen enough and threw on Alvaro Morata and Nico Williams in a bid to spark some life into his attack and it almost paid off with eight minutes to go, Williams playing in Morata whose cross shot flashed across the face of goal.
Bounou was finally called into serious action with virtually the last kick of normal time, Dani Olmo’s inswinging free-kick missing everybody, requiring the Morocco goalkeeper to dive to his left to palm away to safety.
Bouou’s counterpart Unai Simon had been a virtual spectator for most of the evening but was called into action after 103 minutes, making a smart stop with his feet to keep out Walid Cheddira’s low shot after neat work from Azzedine Ounahi.
The rest of extra-time offered little before Sarabia almost won it with the final kick, his volley striking the outside of the post.
His night was to go from bad to worse as Bounou took centre stage.
What does it mean? Risk-averse Spain crash out
Spain stuck to their principles throughout but having a plan B would have been advantageous. Too much of their play was conservative and risk-averse.
Too much sideways passing and too little penetration meant Morocco were rarely threatened.
For the North Africans, however, their tactics worked perfectly. They were content to sit back and contain and play for penalties.
Brilliant Boufal creates havoc
The Angers winger created havoc, particularly in the first half. After 45 minutes, he’d completed five dribbles, more than everyone else on the field. His willingness to run with the ball was in stark contrast to the general theme of taking the easy pass.
He would have created the opening goal too, had Aguerd not fluffed his lines from close range.
En-Nesyri fights losing battle
Youssef En-Nesryi had just 17 touches in 82 minutes of action, including just one in the Spain box. Playing as a lone striker, the Sevilla man spent most of the evening running between Rodri and Aymeric Laporte as they passed it between themselves.
Spain go home while Morocco await the winners of the final round-of-16 tie between Switzerland and Portugal.