Morocco 0 – 0 Spain

Morocco are in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in history after Spain missed three penalties in a dramatic shootout following a 120-minute stalemate.

Spain’s deficiencies in attack were laid bare – restricted to just one shot on target across the match, their lowest-ever in a World Cup game – as they were eventually dumped out.

Morocco had the best chance of the first half when West Ham centre-back Nayef Aguerd headed over from close range. In extra time, following a drab second half, Morocco substitute Walid Cheddira was denied one-on-one by Unai Simon before Spain’s Pablo Sarabia grazed a post with a volley in the final minute.

With both sides unable to be separated, Sarabia incredibly hit a post again with Spain’s first spot kick before Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets had theirs saved by Bono, leaving Achraf Hakimi to coolly chip the winning penalty down the middle to send Morocco through.

Big moments in the game…

  • 25 min: Offside flag goes up after Morocco goalkeeper Bono pushes Gavi shot onto crossbar and Torres denied by goal line clearance
  • 26 min: Asensio beats the Morocco offside trap but fires into side netting
  • 43 min: Boufal crosses from the left and unmarked Aguerd heads over with best chance of first half
  • 114 min: Morocco substitute Cheddira denied by Unai Simon
  • 120+3 min: Sarabia grazes post with volley in last chance of match

What does the result mean?

Morocco will now face either Portugal or Switzerland, who play this evening at 7pm, in the quarter-finals on Saturday December 10 at 3pm.

Player ratings:

Morocco: Bono (8), Hakimi (8), Aguerd (7), Saiss (8), Mazraoui (7), Ounahi (7), Amrabat (8), Amallah (6), Ziyech (7), En-Nesyri (6), Boufal (7).

Subs: Ezzalzouli (6), Cheddira (6), Sabiri (7), Allah (6), Yamiq (6), Banoune (n/a).

Spain: Simon (7), Llorente (5), Rodri (7), Laporte (7), Jordi Alba (5), Gavi (5), Busquets (5), Gonzalez (6), Torres (5), Asensio (5), Olmo (5).

Subs: Morata (5), Soler (5), Williams (6), Fati (6), Balde (6), Sarabia (n/a)

Man of the match: Sofyan Amrabat

How Morocco stunned Spain

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou is chaired off the field by his team-mates
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou is chaired off the field by his team-mates

Luis Enrique’s side had 77 per cent possession and made 926 accurate passes yet they were unable to break down a resilient Morocco. Spain laboured throughout with Gavi’s shot pushed onto the crossbar by Bono before Ferran Torres’ follow-up was blocked in the six-yard box, but the offside flag was up anyway. Marco Asensio had their best opening of the first period, latching onto a ball in behind the Morocco defence and volleying it into the side-netting.

Team news:

  • Morocco opted to strengthen their midfield, bringing in Selim Amallah to replace forward Abdelhamid Sabiri.
  • Marcos Llorente was chosen ahead of Dani Carvajal to replace the injured Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back for Spain.

Morocco had already seen Hakimi whistle a free-kick not far over before Simon gathered Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort at the second attempt. Their golden chance, though, came when former Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal crossed for Aguerd, who sent a free header over.

The second half became more frustrating for Spain as Sofyan Amrabat, in the heart of the Morroco midfield, was superb, coupled by dominant centre-back performances from Aguerd and Romain Saiss.

Walid Cheddira is denied by the Spain defenders in extra time
Walid Cheddira is denied by the Spain defenders in extra time

Cheddira almost won it for them in extra-time, denied by the right leg of Simon, although they rode their luck when Sarabia volleyed off a post with the last kick.

They haven’t got enough up front, they’re not ruthless and clinical enough.

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville on ITV

He struck the woodwork again moments later, side-footing his penalty off the right post after Abdelhamid Sabiri had put Morocco ahead. Hakim Ziyech doubled their advantage and Bono put them on the brink of victory, saving from Soler.

Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou saves Carlos Soler's penalty
Morocco keeper Bono saves Carlos Soler’s penalty

But Badr Benoun was kept out by Simon to keep Spain in it although Bono delivered once more, immediately denying captain Busquets before Hakimi audaciously won it with a Panenka.

Enrique: Now is not the right time to speak about my future

On his future as Spain boss, Luis Enrique said: “I don’t know the decision. This is not the right time to speak about my future, this is not relevant, not important. My contract is going to end but as you know I am very happy at the national team and with the federation. I need to think what’s best for me and the national team.”

On defeat to Morocco, Enrique told TVE: “We completely dominated the match, it’s a shame it went that way.

“It’s the most difficult thing, playing against a team like Morocco who are hard workers.

“The penalties cost us, but I am very proud of the team and all the players. I’m very sorry about the result but I congratulate Morocco.”

Opta stats: Spain stumble on penalties again

Over a year ago, in many national camps we told players, ‘You have homework ahead of the World Cup. You must take at least 1,000 penalties with the club’. You can’t just train them when they’re with the national team’.

Spain boss Luis Enrique pre-match on penalties…

  • Morocco are the fourth African side to reach the quarter-final of a World Cup tournament, after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
  • Morocco became the first African nation to win a penalty shootout at the World Cup, with this just the second one contested by an African side (previously Ghana 2-4 Uruguay in 2010).
  • Spain have become the first nation in World Cup history to lose four penalty shootouts, while they’ve become just the second side to not score in one after Switzerland against Ukraine in 2006.
  • Spain recorded just one shot on target across the 120 minutes of this match; since 1966 (when data is available), they’ve never had fewer in a single World Cup game.

Quarter-final fixtures

Friday December 9
Croatia vs Brazil – Kick-off 3pm
Netherlands vs Argentina – Kick-off 7pm

Saturday December 10
Morocco vs Portugal or Switzerland – Kick-off 3pm
England vs France – Kick-off 7pm

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