News, Culture & Society

Spain OUT of the World Cup as Morocco seal sensational victory on penalties to reach quarter-finals

To the relentless pounding of north African drums and a backdrop of screeching whistles, Spain exited this World Cup, downed by the hardest working team in the tournament and ultimately undone by their own fecklessness.

If it’s possible to control a game of football without ever having prolonged possession then Morocco showed us how to do it here. For 120 minutes, they sat in their own half and invited Luis Enrique’s Spain to come and win this game.

Spain – shorn of the imagination and intricacies of old – could not do it. In fact they failed to get anywhere near. At the end of extra-time, the statistics showed the 2010 champions had enjoyed 77 per cent of the play but had only one shot on target to show for it. That said everything for their lack of wit and guile.

And when it came to the penalty shoot-out that Morocco had sought all along, the Africans held their nerves while the Spanish lost theirs.

Morocco caused a seismic shock to dump Spain out of the World Cup on penalties and secure their first ever quarter-final

Luis Enrique's men were under-par throughout and failed to produce a meaningful chance until the end of extra time

Luis Enrique’s men were under-par throughout and failed to produce a meaningful chance until the end of extra time 

Morocco keeper Bono was imperious in the shootout as he saved two penalties to keep out Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler

Morocco keeper Bono was imperious in the shootout as he saved two penalties to keep out Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler

Spain players were totally dejected at the end of penalties, with Barcelona star Ansu Fati looking tearful on the turf

Spain players were totally dejected at the end of penalties, with Barcelona star Ansu Fati looking tearful on the turf 

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte was in tears after watching his side dismally crash out at the last-16 stage

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte was in tears after watching his side dismally crash out at the last-16 stage 

Morocco manager Walid Regragui is hoisted up into the air by his squad after masterminding a victory for the ages

Morocco manager Walid Regragui is hoisted up into the air by his squad after masterminding a victory for the ages 

Enrique – who only last week was promising extravagant and brave football – had also said before this game that he hoped his players had practiced ‘thousands of penalties’ before coming to Doha. When it came to it, they only got to take three and they missed them all.

With this stadium crammed full of Moroccans, the shoot-out was always going to be an even greater test of Spanish nerve than usual. And when Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets contributed three dismal kicks – the first against the post and the other two saved – it was left to Morocco to complete a totally unexpected journey in to the last eight.

Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon did save one penalty – Morocco’s third from Badr Benoun – but Abdelhamid Sabiri and Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech had by then scored their country’s first two and it was left to Achraf Hakimi to complete the victory with a gentle dink down the middle that summed up the control Morocco had on this game all afternoon.

Nobody expected anything of this side when they arrived in Qatar. Walid Regraguis’ team are ranked 22nd in the world.

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS  

Morocco (4-3-3): Bounou 8; Hakimi 7, Aguerd 6.5 (El Yamick 83mins 7), Saiss 7, Mazraoui 7.5 (Attiat-Allah 82mins 6), Ounahi 7 (Benoun 119mins 6), Amrabat 7, Amallah 7 (Cheddira 82mins 6.5), Ziyech 7.5, Boufal 7.5 (Ezzalzouli 66mins 7) , En-Nesyri 7 (Sabiri 82mins 7).

GOALS: None

BOOKED: Saiss

MANAGER: WALID REGRAGUI: 8

Spain (4-3-3): Simon 6; Llorente 6, Rodri 6.5, Laporte 6.5, Alba 6.5 (Balde 97mins 6); Gavi 6.5 (Soler 63mins 6), Busquets 6, Pedri 6; F Torres 6 (Williams 75mins 7 (Sarabia 118mins 5)) Asensio 6 (Morata 63mins 6.5), Olmo 6 (Ansu Fati 97mins 6).

GOALS: None

BOOKED: Laporte

MANAGER: LUIS ENRIQUE: 5

REFEREE: Fernando Rapallini 6

The African side had chances to win it before spot kicks - with substitute Walid Cheddira missing after being put in the clear

The African side had chances to win it before spot kicks – with substitute Walid Cheddira missing after being put in the clear 

Hakim Ziyech also failed to convert from close range after being played into the box late into extra time on Tuesday night

Hakim Ziyech also failed to convert from close range after being played into the box late into extra time on Tuesday night 

Pablo Sarabia later had a golden opportunity to nick it for Spain at the death before his shot brushed against the post

Pablo Sarabia later had a golden opportunity to nick it for Spain at the death before his shot brushed against the post 

Fellow sub Carlos Soler has his head in his hands after watching Sarabia miss the chance with penalties looming

Fellow sub Carlos Soler has his head in his hands after watching Sarabia miss the chance with penalties looming 

But we sat up and took notice when they beat Belgium in game two of the group stages ten days ago and they are now set on a course for a quarter-final against Portugal or Switzerland and, possibly, a semi-final against England or France.

Nobody will want to play Morocco for sure. They are incredibly organised and industrious. Such was the ferocity of their hounding of Spanish players in possession here, it seemed unfeasible that they could keep it going for 120 minutes. But somehow they did and they now go deep in to this tournament fuelled by an almost manic belief and by some distance the noisiest and most fanatical supporters in Qatar.

Morocco made no attempt to disguise their methods and should not be ashamed. Sitting deep with two lines of four, they were happy for Spain to have the ball and from high up in the stands it was possible to view the moves of the players in red like pieces on a chess board. Whenever Spain moved forwards, the underdog nation dropped in to their familiar and well-coached pattern with just one man tasked each time with moving out to press the player with the ball.

For Spain the challenge was clear. Enrique’s players had to find a way to play through or round their opponents. Spanish sides of old would have managed it. They would have found the angles and seen the spaces, however small.

Nico Williams - brother of Inaki - came on and was Spain's best player, but he was left frustrated as Morocco kept things tight

Nico Williams – brother of Inaki – came on and was Spain’s best player, but he was left frustrated as Morocco kept things tight

Alvaro Morata was also introduced to give Spain more firepower, but he too was denied by the incredible Bono in goal

Alvaro Morata was also introduced to give Spain more firepower, but he too was denied by the incredible Bono in goal 

Even the world class presence and experience of Sergio Busuqets could not help Spain as they failed to get going in midfield

Even the world class presence and experience of Sergio Busuqets could not help Spain as they failed to get going in midfield

This one proved itself to have no such cleverness even if they did look a little better when Alvaro Morata – strangely excluded after three tournament goals – and Nico Williams came on in the second half. Both players looked to get round the side of the Morrocan defence and occasionally did.

But on the whole it was Morocco who looked more dangerous on the occasions they managed to hustle Spain out of possession and break on them with speed.

The Angers wide man Soufiane Boufal was particularly lively on the left just as Ziyech was down the other side. Indeed the best chance of the first half came when Boufal crossed well in the 40th minute and Nayef Aguerd headed over from seven yards.

Spain pushed hard towards the end of extra time and Sorabia volleyed a late chance across the goal and wide from the far post. By then, though, Morocco’s substitute Walid Cheddira had passed up the chance of the game, wriggling in to the penalty area in the first half of extra-time only to shoot too close to the goalkeeper’s legs. 

Sofyan Amrabat was one of the best players on the pitch with a combative display to frustate Spain and disrupt their passing

Sofyan Amrabat was one of the best players on the pitch with a combative display to frustate Spain and disrupt their passing

Morocco targeted Marcos Llorente - who was making his first World Cup start - as they tried to force him into mistakes

Morocco targeted Marcos Llorente – who was making his first World Cup start – as they tried to force him into mistakes

At the end of it all, Spanish anguish was complete and familiar. They exited Euro 2020 on penalties, too.

Afterwards Enrique declared himself to have no regrets and said: ‘We dominated but lacked the goal. That’s the truth.

‘Morocco did a great defensive performance.

‘I am more than happy with my team. They represented my theory and style. I can only praise them.

‘We tried to win. I cannot complain about Morocco. This was a beautiful game for children all over the world.’

It’s hard to dislike Enrique. He has natural charm. But this was a day when the limitations of his team were exposed. A beautiful game for the world’s children? Not for those who happen to live in Spain.

Former Southampton man Sofiane Boufal was also a massive danger for Morocco with some electric runs in the first half

Former Southampton man Sofiane Boufal was also a massive danger for Morocco with some electric runs in the first half 

West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd was a colossus in defence before being forced off injured in extra time

West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd was a colossus in defence before being forced off injured in extra time 

Ferran Torres was gifted a start by Enrique but while he got into promising areas, he couldn't carve open clear cut chances

Ferran Torres was gifted a start by Enrique but while he got into promising areas, he couldn’t carve open clear cut chances

Youngster Gavi also struggled to show his talent as he was shackled by the physicality of a fearsome Morocco team

Youngster Gavi also struggled to show his talent as he was shackled by the physicality of a fearsome Morocco team 

There will now be huge question marks over the future of Enrique - who will wonder how his side went from hitting seven past Costa Rica to failing to score against Morocco in 120 minutes - and converting none from the spot

There will now be huge question marks over the future of Enrique – who will wonder how his side went from hitting seven past Costa Rica to failing to score against Morocco in 120 minutes – and converting none from the spot

Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the World Cup last-16 clash between Morocco and Spain.  

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



Find local lawyers and law firms at USAttorneys.com