It was predicted to be the biggest game in Arab football history and it lived up to its expectations as a fearless Morocco rewrote the record books when they defeated former champions Spain 3-0 via penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
For the second consecutive day spot kicks were called upon to decide the fate of a last 16 match after a goalless 120 minutes of play and the Atlas Lions made no mistake as they scored three times from the spot to clinically execute Spain’s exit from a tournament that they won in 2010.
Two giant saves from goalkeeper Yassine Bounou coupled with Achraf Hakimi’s perfectly executed penalty was all it took ensure that Morocco became the first Arab team to reach the quarter-finals of a tournament that has helped showcase the skills and talent of teams from the Middle East and Africa including Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
Morocco, now await the winners of the final last 16 match of the tournament between Portugal and Switzerland.
Trained by Walid Regragui, the Moroccan Guardiola, Morocco has enjoyed a dream run at Qatar which began in the preliminary stake where they outshone Belgium and Croatia to top the group with seven points from a possible nine.
The Atlas Lions, whose previous best performance at football’s quadrennial showpiece was when they reached the last 16 stage in 1986, have filled the hearts of ever Arab fan with pride and love.
Morocco have also had a lot of recent success in recent years winning the 2020 Africa Futsal Cup of Nations and their first ever Fifa Futsal World Cup matches at Lithuania 2021 where they defeated Solomon Islands 6-0 and Venezuela 3-2, before being knocked out in the quarter-finals after a 1-0 loss to Brazil.
Wednesday’s pot-boiler before a full-house at the Education Stadium was not the first time that Morocco and Spain have clashed, the two sides having met three times previously in the World Cup with the Europeans winning twice and drawing the third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Spain, who won the title in 2010, enjoyed a slight dominance over their spirited rivals through 90 minutes of regulation time and the 30 minutes of extra-time, but could not translate their territorial advantage into goals.
They have become another football powerhouse to exit the tournament following Germany, Denmark, Belgium and Uruguay.
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