Achraf Hakimi hit the decisive penalty that knocked Spain out and Morocco into the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time. He won 3-0 in a shoot-out on Tuesday after a 0-0 draw. Spain coach Luis Enrique had claimed his players had been prepared by taking 1,000 penalties as homework, but Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missed from the spot and Madrid-born Hakimi drank into his house much to the delight of the raucous support from Morocco. Walid Regragui’s team will face either Portugal or Switzerland in what is uncharted territory for them, with their previous record a last 16 exit set in 1986.
Spain had hoped they could repeat their 2010 World Cup triumph after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020, where they were also beaten by Italy on penalties.
The teams were evenly matched by a nerve-wracking clash, with Spain having more of the ball but Morocco creating the better openings, though few of them.
Luis Enrique tested his third right back of the tournament in Marcos Llorente and benched the team’s top scorer Alvaro Morata for Marco Asensio after the shock defeat to Japan.
Spain monopolized the ball, while Morocco’s fans furiously whistled their side out of possession.
Morocco, the last African and Arab team to survive the first World Cup held in an Arab country, received strong support and their fan base far outnumbered Spain’s.
With La Roja playing in a light blue second strip, they resembled the visiting team in hostile territory.
Gavi, who at 18 years and 123 days old became the youngest player to start a World Cup knockout match since Brazilian powerhouse Pelé in 1958, jumped at the opportunity.
The midfield Barcelona terrier was at his most intense, plunging into challenges left, right and centre, even diving to make one with his head.
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou tipped Gavi’s shot over the crossbar, though it would have been ruled offside, while Asensio drilled into the side net, though Spain created little.
Regragui’s side were deep defensively and threatened on the counter, with Unai Simon knocking off a long-range attempt from Noussair Mazraoui.
– Toothless Spain –
Sofiane Boufal, who avoided Llorente like sand slipping through the Spaniard’s fingers early on, had the best chance of the half for Nayef Aguerd, who headed centimeters over.
Bounou cleared a shot from Dani Olmo from a corner as the tension rose after the break.
Luis Enrique was furious with Rodri for choosing the wrong option on the ball, and pulled the stubborn and clouded Gavi back for Carlos Soler.
He also threw on Morata, giving Spain a central point, but they struggled to supply him as Morocco went deeper and deeper.
Another substitute, Nico Williams, did find the Atletico Madrid striker once, but the angle was too tight and he scraped a shot over the goal.
Bounou made a fine save from Olmo’s free-kick as it almost went all the way, with Spain finally creating stronger chances as play frayed into extra time.
Morocco responded in the extra period by finding stability and testing Simon, who made a fine save with his legs to deny Walid Cheddira after breaking into Spain’s left flank.
Despite heavy pressure from Spain in the dying moments for penalties, they were unable to harass the Sevilla goalkeeper again, with Pablo Sarabia clipping the outside of the post, although he may have been offside.
Apparently sent off for the shoot-out, Sarabia hit the post again from Spain’s first penalty after Abdelhamid Sabiri sent Morocco ahead.
Soler and Busquets missed, while Hakim Ziyech scored, before Hakimi scored against his native country to unleash wild celebration.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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