Spain stunned in shootout as Morocco make history in Qatar
Morocco secured a place in the World Cup quarterfinals with a penalty shootout victory against Spain in Qatar, marking the first time ever that the North Africans have progressed this far at the tournament.
After the teams could not be separated by a goalless 90 minutes and extra time, Morocco downed their rivals from the spot, winning the shootout 3-0 thanks to a pair of saves from goalkeeper Bono and some woeful Spanish efforts.
With history calling, it was the Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi who answered for Morocco as he coolly chipped the winning penalty down the middle.
Spain paid the price for not converting their possession into goals during the game, and the poor penalties from Luis Enrique’s team – combined with superb goalkeeping from Morocco’s Bono – consigned the 2010 World Cup winners to a meek exit.
Spain missed all three of their spot kicks, as Pablo Sarabia hit the post and Bono saved from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets.
Abdelhamid Sabiri and Hakim Ziyech both scored for Morocco, before Unai Simon kept Spain’s chances alive by guessing the right way to save from Badr Benoun.
But Paris Saint-Germain star Hakimi calmly dinked the ball into the net to seal the shootout victory, sparking jubilation among the Atlas Lions and their formidable support inside the Education City Stadium – and no doubt far beyond.
Morocco had already established themselves as a revelation for many in Qatar, topping Group F with two wins from three games – including an impressive victory over Belgium.
They will next meet the winners of the last-16 fixture between Portugal and Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Saturday, marking new territory for the North Africans.
Meanwhile, a Spanish team mixing the talent of precocious playmakers such as Gavi and Pedri and older heads such as Busquets will have to regroup, potentially without Enrique at the helm, as they contemplate more major tournament disappointment following the golden years of 2008 to 2012.
Indeed, it was a second consecutive exit on penalties in the last 16 of a World Cup for the Spaniards – matching their departure against hosts Russia at the same stage four years ago.
Spain had imposed their passing carousel on Morocco throughout the contest – frequently drawing deafening boos from the Moroccan faithful in the stands – but the Europeans fashioned few chances of note across the 90 minutes.
Morocco’s best opportunity came shortly before half time when Nayef Aguerd headed over from a Sofiane Boufal cross.
With a low block installed by the North Africans, Hakimi and Ziyech continued to look like their best outlets on the counter-attack.
The pattern of Spanish possession continued in the second half as Enrique introduced Alvaro Morata in a bid to break the deadlock.
The Atletico Madrid forward headed over at the back post in injury time, before Bono pushed away an inviting free-kick from Dani Olmo that evaded everyone inside the Moroccan box.
Into extra time, and Spain were approaching a staggering 80% of possession but continued to be frustrated.
At the other end, substitute Walid Cheddira had a golden chance to win it for Morocco when he slipped free inside the box, but his side-footed effort was saved by the legs of Simon.
Late Spanish substitute Sarabia then agonizingly hit the post in the final moments of the game, indicating it would not be his night as more misery was to come.
The shootout saw Spain wilt and Morocco keep their cool as the hand of history beckoned Walid Regragui’s team towards a landmark date in Qatar on Saturday.