Morocco stun Spain to reach maiden FIFA World Cup quarter-final

Morocco stun Spain to reach maiden FIFA World Cup quarter-final

Spain crashed out of the round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup for the second tournament in a row as the 2010 champions were dumped out of the competition by Morocco on penalties at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday. La Roja struggled to break down a stubborn Moroccan defence throughout the 120 minutes in Qatar before fluffing their lines in the shootout as the Atlas Lions reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time in their history.

Spain lost to Russia in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup on penalties and suffered the same fate in Qatar four years later as they failed to create any meaningful opportunities and faced similar problems with their forward line. La Roja managed over 75% possession in the 120 minutes but completed just one shot on target as the resolute Moroccan defenders continued their stellar performances in the competition.

The two sides largely cancelled each other out in the first 45 minutes, with both defences offering nothing to the opposition. Achraf Hakimi had a free kick blaze over the bar in the 12th minute, while the closest Spain went to open the scoring was when Marco Asensio hit the side netting from a tight angle. Dani Olmo forced a save from Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bouno in the 54th minute, and the shot-stopper also had to make a crucial intervention in stoppage time to keep out another Olmo set-piece.

Morocco’s best chance of the game came in the first half of extra time, with Unai Simon’s outstretched leg stopping Walid Cheddira in a 1v1 situation. Spain had a glorious chance of their own to win the tie in extra time, but substitute Pablo Sarabia could only hit the frame of the goal from close range in the 120th minute, sending the game to penalties.

Spain have been knocked out of each of the last two major tournaments on spot-kicks, and Luis Enrique’s side got off to a poor start in the shootout as Abdelhamid Sabiri converted while Pablo Sarabia hit the post to put Morocco 1-0 in front. La Roja’s problems worsened when Hakim Ziyech smashed his penalty down the middle before Yassine Bouno saved Carlos Soler’s tame spot-kick. Unai Simon saved against Badr Benoun to give Spain a lifeline, but Sergio Busquets had his follow-up kick stopped by Bouno to leave the Europeans on the brink of elimination. Achraf Hakimi coolly chipped the winning penalty down the middle to give Morocco a famous victory, helping the Atlas Lions become the first African nation to win a World Cup penalty shoot-out and set up a date against Portugal in their first-ever quarter-final at the tournament.