Spain KNOCKED OUT of World Cup on penalties as brave Morocco progress – 5 talking points

Morocco spectacularly dumped Spain out of the World Cup on penalties on Tuesday afternoon to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final against Portugal or Switzerland.

In a cagey affair, Morocco started the game on the front foot with an intent to press and cause Spain problems. But once Luis Enrique’s side got a hold of the ball, they dominated possession and Morocco decided to sit in a compact shape, making it hard for Spain to create many chances at all in the first-half.

Dani Olmo had Spain’s best opportunity midway through the second period with a ferocious free-kick but Yassine Bounou did well to palm the ball away from safety. Opportunities were few and far between as the game drew to a close – meaning extra-time would be played for the second time at the tournament.

Morocco then came the closest to an opener in the first-half of extra-time through Walid Cheddira, as the forward ran clean through on goal. It was a fine move from the Moroccans but the substitute fired his effort straight at Unai Simon – to the frustration of his nation’s fans inside the stadium.

After a barrage of attacks from Spain towards the end of the game, Morocco held out for penalties. And they were right to do so as the North African side ran out 3-0 winners from the spot with Hakim Ziyech, Abdelhamid Sabiri and Achraf Hakimi scoring the decisive kicks.

           Achraf Hakimi celebrates after scoring the winning penalty against Spain© Getty Images

Amrabat sends Liverpool transfer message

Liverpool have been heavily linked with a move for Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat in recent weeks after a string of impressive performances from the Fiorentina star during the World Cup. The 26-year-old produced another colossal display in front of the back-four and, for large spells, helped stop Spain’s midfield from playing passes into the forward areas.

Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Pedri possess so much quality on the ball, and Morocco needed to stay compact to ensure Spain didn’t dominate in the final third. Amrabat’s pressing, intelligence and knack to make a tackle will no doubt impress potential suitors with the midfielder tipped to make the switch to the Premier League.

          Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco© Getty Images

Tottenham are reportedly keen on signing Amrabat, while Liverpool have expressed an interest in the player with Jurgen Klopp ready to bolster his midfield options. Former Wales forward John Hartson was impressed with Ambabat after he made a last-ditch block to deny Nico Williams’ goal bound effort. He told ITV : “Amrabat has been outstanding for Morocco.”

Blunt Spain

Question marks were raised surrounding Spain’s lack of goalscoring threat before the tournament given their poor record in front of goal. But Luis Enrique’s side appeared to quash all those fears by thrashing Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening World Cup game. However, they struggled against Germany and Japan to reignite those worries.

And Spain failed to deceive throughout most of their clash with Morocco. In actual fact, the Spaniards recorded just one shot in the first-half – the lowest they have had registered in 45 minutes at a World Cup match since 1966. Spain dominated possession in both halves but didn’t have the creativity to break down a compact Morocco unit as the game went straight to extra-time.

           Pedri in action for Spain against Morocco© Getty Images

This continued into the additional 30 minutes as Spain tried to force a winner, and, although they looked brighter in extra-time, they lacked quality and guile to break the deadlock. Pablo Sarabia almost scored in the 120th minute but his shot clipped the outside of the post.

Intimidating Morocco atmosphere

There was a huge representation of Morocco fans inside the Education City Stadium – and they didn’t disappoint by displaying a raucous atmosphere throughout the game. Behind both sets of goals, masses of Moroccans belted out the national anthem and were spotted roaring as their team attacked and went forward.

But they weren’t just getting behind Walid Regragui’s men. Morocco supporters whistled loudly and booed every time Spain had the ball, something that has been present at each of their matches. They did the same to Croatia, Belgium and Canada, and it certainly helped as they topped the group.

            Morocco fans were in full voice at the Education City Stadium© Getty Images

One fan on Twitter said: “Moroccan fans in the stadium are on another level. So loud & intimidating and those whistles and jeering every time the ball is with Spain. Crazy atmosphere.”

Stadium troubles

Before kick-off, trouble was present outside the stadium as fans tried to get in, with Qatari riot police and security filmed pushing a crowd of supporters alongside a chain-link fence.

It is unclear what caused the issues but a video posted on social media showed officials shouting “get back” as they moved fans away from an entrance to the stadium. Some fans could be heard screaming, with images showing women and children caught up in the incident.

There were initial claims, made without firm evidence, that ticketless supporters had been attempting to get into the stadium. Later footage showed some fans with tickets being allowed through a checkpoint.

Morocco win first shootout

It proved to be a close tie between two well-matched teams and penalties were needed to decide the outcome of the game, with Morocco aiming to win their first-ever competitive penalty shootout.

Abdelhamid Sabiri took the first spot-kick for Morocco and buried it into the corner of the net. Spain were then put on to the back foot when Sarabia’s penalty struck the post, before Ziyech put Morocco two goals ahead with a cool spot-kick, hammering the ball straight down the middle.

Meanwhile, Carlos Soler had his penalty saved to put Morocco firmly in the advantage. Although Morocco missed their third penalty, it didn’t matter as Barcelona legend Sergio Busquets saw his spot-kick saved to put them on the brink of qualification. Then Hakimi produced a Panenka to win the game and secure Morocco’s first competitive win on penalties at the fifth attempt, having previously lost their last four.

In the process, Morocco also became the first North African side to ever reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup and will face either Portugal or Switzerland in the last eight.


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