Yassine bounou saved two penalties as Morocco eliminated European giant Spain through penalty shootout to reach 2022 World Cup quarterfinal.
Morocco: Yassine Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui; Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Selim Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Spain: Unai Simon; Marcos Llorente, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Gavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedri; Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo.
Education City Stadium went lively, with thousands of fans trouping into the stadium to watch this game. The giant and minnow could not be disputed. Morocco knew what to expect from European giants.
Although qualifying below Japan in the group and losing their final match against the Asians, they were favorites against the Moroccans, who won their group with the maximum point garnered by any group winner in the tournament.
Luis Enrique knows it all – a giant and great tactician in Spanish football. He need not slip from the old tradition – the titkata-style. Dominate the game, and get as much possession as possible, all for an end – win the game.
Going against the Moroccans, Luis Enrique made sundry alterations to the team that lost against Japan, with the defence and attackers changed, while the midfield trio of Busquets, Gavi, and Pedri was retained.
Morocco made only one change against the them that defeated Belgium in midfield. It was Amallah replacing Sabiri. They knew what was at stake. Taking on the Spaniards is like playing the toughest opposition in the tournament.
Spain was playing African opponents for the first time in the knockout in the World Cup. All their previous opponents were in the group stages, and they had never lost since 1998 when Nigeria pulled a shocker to humble the European giant with a 3-2 win.
Meanwhile, Spain and Morocco have only met once in the 2018 World Cup. Morocco nearly secured a 2-1 win, but Lago Aspas was the last-minute savior for Spain as he scored a last-minute equaliser for the Spaniards.
As expected, Luis Enrique built the game on the typical tikitaka flow as the center referee set the match rolling. The tactics was straightforward. They dominated proceedings and moved the ball swiftly to the flanks to pull out the Moroccans.
Pedro, Gavi, and Busquets were rolling freely in the middle of the park, but Asensio, Ferran Torres, and Olmo lazied up front.
The Moroccans gave no chances. They had closed up their own half with all 10 players packed back to defend. Both sides created no clear chance. Hakim Ziyech was phenomenal for the Moroccans in the flanks when the team picked pace on a counterattack but were foiled on the edge of the box.
Spain had two clear chances – one was a long through ball for Asensio, who outpaced the Moroccan defence from the middle, but his shot fell on the back of the net. The second chance came from an awkward mistake from Bounou, the Moroccan goalkeeper. He wanted to send a long pass to his defender but was intercepted by a fast-runing Ferran Torres, who squared it up for Olmo, but his shot deflected off Bounou onto the crossbar. Meanwhile, the offside flag was raised. The first half ended goalless.
It was the same style and approach as both filed into the second half of play – a walking pace momentum, no real spark or early attacking threat by both sides, a dominant Spaniards controlling proceedings meeting the resilient Moroccans packed into their box. Nothing changed.
It was still barren, with over 60 minutes played. No clear-cut chances for Spain. It appears the Moroccans have gotten it right, foiling the attacking prowess of the Spaniards.
Luis Enrique knew the game was ripe for substitution. First, he took off Asensio for Alvaro Morata. The attack needed more momentum. Gavi was also subbed off in the midfield for Soler, and Williams subbed on for Ferran Torres.
The Moroccans subbed off Amallah, En-Nesyri, Mazraoui, and Aguerd for Cheddirah, Sabiri, Allah, and Yamiq, respectively.
The substitutions made little or no impact as the game continued with its walking pace momentum. The game ended 0-0, with the match heading into extra time to decide the winner.
Both sides maintained a barren scoreline, but Morocco won 3-0 in a penalty shootout, with Bounou saving two penalties to send the North Africans to the quarterfinals.