Morocco surprised Spain 3-0 in a shootout following a goalless draw to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. After 120 minutes, the two teams couldn’t be separated, and Spain failed to convert any of its three penalties, with goalkeeper Yassine Bounou stopping two of them magnificently. That left Hakimi of Paris St-Germain, who was born in Madrid, to win it with a nerveless spot-kick and trigger joyous celebrations in the stands. Morocco fans erupted at the final whistle as their team advanced to the last eight for the first time, where they will meet Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Spain had most of the ball, but Morocco stayed back and filled in the gaps. There weren’t many clear-cut chances. Dani Olmo’s arrowed effort from the angle was pushed away by Bounou, who also did excellently to keep out Olmo’s threatening free-kick late in the game.
Morocco was playing on the counter and should have scored in the first quarter, but Nayef Aguerd put his unmarked header over, while Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort was recovered by Unai Simon. Because the teams couldn’t be separated, the game proceeded into extra time, and Morocco’s greatest chance fell to substitute Walid Cheddira, who scuffed his effort straight at Simon from eight yards out.
Spain had over 1,000 passes in the game and nearly won it in the 123rd minute, but Pablo Sarabia’s shot grazed the outside of the far post. Morocco kept to their game plan by sitting back with a tough and tight defence that allowed only one Spain shot on target. The chanting, dancing, and jeering of Regragui’s crowd, which was much bigger than the Spanish crowd, kept his men going for the whole 120 minutes.
Morocco’s spirit was shown by captain Romain Saiss, who kept playing even though he had a pulled hamstring. West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd was great until he got hurt and had to limp off, and Sofyan Amrabat was a pain the whole game.
The African side then humiliated Spain in penalties, with goalkeeper Bounou saving attempts from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets while Sarabia hit the post. Star player Hakimi stepped up and was the calmest man under immense pressure, dinking his penalty – a ‘Panenka’ – clean down the centre.
Morocco’s lone prior appearance in the round of 16 was in 1986, but they have now extended their unbeaten record in the World Cup to five games and have maintained a clean sheet in six of their past seven games overall.
Morocco became the fourth African country to reach the World Cup quarter-finals, joining Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010).
After a promising start in which they thrashed Costa Rica 7-0, Spain’s campaign comes to a close in disappointment. It marks Spain’s second consecutive penalty shootout exit from the World Cup’s last-16 stage, having also lost to Russia in 2018.
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