Match report as Spain are dumped out 3-0 on penalties by Morocco; Nayef Aguerd headed over in the first half for Morocco as Spain's attack faltered; Pablo Sarabia grazed a post with a volley in the final minute of extra-time; Morocco will face Portugal on Saturday at 3pm
Wednesday 7 December 2022 06:16, UK
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.
Morocco will now face Portugal, who hammered Switzerland 6-1 in their last-16 tie, in the quarter-finals on Saturday December 10 at 3pm.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the penalty shootout, Enrique said: "It's my responsibility. I picked the first three penalty-takers, and then they could decide themselves. But the first three were my decision, and I would've done the same thing again. The only thing I wished I could do was to take Bono out and put another goalkeeper in there."
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."
Morocco manager Walid Regragui said: "They knew they were going to make us run, that's what we were talking about before the match. We were patient, we wanted to try and win the game before penalties, but we knew if it went to penalties we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and had a good chance of winning.
"We did have chances but, typically, as Spanish teams do, they kept the ball very well. We fought for it and we have a lot of injured players - we've had injured players since the beginning of the tournament - and that's why it's even more of a tremendous achievement.
"If you told me at the beginning of the tournament that we'd play against all these top teams without losing a match and without letting in a goal, I would have signed straight away. I've got a tremendous group of players, they've respected the instructions to the letter and I don't know how far we're going to go now."
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'.
Friday December 9
Croatia vs Brazil - Kick-off 3pm
Netherlands vs Argentina - Kick-off 7pm
Saturday December 10
Morocco vs Portugal - Kick-off 3pm
England vs France - Kick-off 7pm