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Morocco resisted Spain for 120 minutes before winning on penalties on Tuesday December 6 (0-0, 3-0 on pens). The Atlas Lions become the 4th African selection to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup.
History is on! Morocco became, Tuesday, December 6, the fourth African selection to join the quarter-finals of the World Cup by winning after a long fight against Spain, in sterile domination for 120 minutes ( 0-0, tab 3-0).
“We had a huge match. The guys followed the plan tactically. We’re going down in history, especially for the Moroccan people. It’s historic for Morocco and Africa. When there is a heart, ‘ energy and love, you win matches”, savored coach Walid Regragui after the meeting. “The important thing was to show a beautiful face so as not to regret anything. Some players are on their knees, but for the country, they are ready to die. We are on a mission, we have to stop having complexes. “
The Mediterranean match had indeed installed from the first moments a scenario in all respects in line with expectations: Spain, faithful to its “tiki-taka”, installs its possession game, multiplies the short passes to find breaches in the defense of their opponents. Opposite, Walid Regragui’s men wait patiently, opposing an ultra-compact block.
An unexciting match
In this opposition of style, the round of 16 struggled to get carried away despite the boosted atmosphere of the Moroccan public, present in large numbers. The fans of the Atlas Lions whistle copiously the Spanish passes. Hakimi takes care of the first cannon shot. Suddenly, he sends the ball a meter above the crossbar of Unaï Simon (7th).
In front of the high pressing of La Roja – which is evolving in sky blue today – the Moroccans are taking risks. On a poor recovery from Bounou, Gavi finds the bar but Torres was offside at the start of the action (25th). Jordi Alba then launches Asensio who finds the small net (27th).
Spain’s only two chances in the first half, as the Spaniards struggled to speed up the game to destabilize their opponents. The Atlas Lions, on the other hand, are really dangerous. On a recovery in front of the surface, Mazraoui tries his luck but Unaï Simon blocks (33rd). Then, on a distant free kick from Hakimi, Boufal is found on the opposite side. His cross finds the head of Aguerd at the far post. The ball passes over (43rd).
But shooting as the only way out
Back from the locker room, Asensio and Dani Olmo shine with a free kick combination. The first shifts the ball for the second who sends a heavy strike towards the Moroccan cage. Bonou is forced to release with both fists (51st).
The physiognomy of the meeting does not evolve however. Morocco remains solid and compact enough to generalize the men of Luis Enrique. There is always a header from Aguerd, a tackle from Saïss or a return from Mazraoui to generalize the Spanish offensives. All under the enthusiastic encouragement of the Moroccan public, aware that their team is the last representative of the Arab world in the competition.
Alvaro Morata, who went to the limit of offside on a pass from Williams, recovers the ball just before the line but his cross shot is not taken by anyone and passes straight next to Bounou (81st). On a final free kick from Olmo in regulation time, the Moroccan goalkeeper saves his people (90th + 4).
The Moroccans must therefore face Spain in extra time, all without Nayef Aguerd who had to leave the lawn, injured in the ankle. The Atlas Lions have shown themselves to their advantage. Amrabat launches Chedira who presents herself alone in front of Simon. He stammers and is caught by the defense in extremis. Without regret: he was offside at the start of the action (95th). Then the striker lost his duel on another occasion with the goalkeeper (105th) and again a third in the second part of extra time (115th). Spain is pushing, but Morocco is on a mission to resist, like its captain Romain Saïss.
There remains the shots at but to decide between the two teams. And in this terrible exercise, it is Morocco who wins, Bounou blocking the first three shots of Spain. Before the match, Luis Enrique revealed that he had asked his players to take 1,000 penalties in training for the 2022 World Cup: obviously, they did not read the memo.
This suits Morocco, which should erect a statue of a national hero in Bounou. With this performance at the first World Cup organized in the Arab world, the Atlas Lions are already entering the history books. Before writing it a little more by becoming the first African nation in the last four? This will go through a performance against the winner of Portugal – Switzerland.
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