Luis Enrique’s confident Spain took on Walid Regragui’s unbeaten Morocco in the last 16 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday (6 December). Morocco put in another heroic shift, keeping the heavyweights at bay and ultimately winning the game 3-0 on penalties after the score remained goalless at the end of extra time.
Spain, as expected, dominated possession in the opening exchanges, enjoying 81% of the ball in the first 10 minutes. Morocco, despite not seeing the ball nearly enough, carried more thread, piercing the Spanish flanks with their pacy wingers.
In the 12th minute, Sofiane Boufal was brought down in a shooting position outside the box. Achraf Hakimi took the resulting free-kick but could not keep his effort on target. Fifteen minutes later, Jordi Alba slipped Marcos Asensio past the Moroccan defense with a neat through ball. With only Yassine Bounou to beat, the Real Madrid man found the left side-netting of the goal.
In the 33rd minute, Noussair Mazraoui dispossessed Ferran Torres close to the Spanish goal. The left-back set himself up and went for goal with a piledriver of a shot. Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon initially spilled the shot but eventually recovered to collect it.
Ten minutes later, a sweeping Moroccan move saw Boufal deliver a teasing cross into the box for Naif Aguerd. The West Ham United defender met the delivery at the far post but could not keep his effort on target.
In the 81st minute, substitute Nico Williams played a cheeky through ball for fellow substitute Alvaro Morata down the right side. The striker opened up a bit of space, but the angle was too narrow for him to test Bounou.
In the final minute of injury time, Spain won a free-kick in a dangerous area. Dani Olmo whipped in a dangerous cross into the box, but neither Rodri nor Aymeric Laporte managed to apply the telling touch. With the game level at 0-0, the match crept into extra time.
Two minutes before the end of the first period of extra time, Azzedine Ounahi played substitute Walid Cheddira through on goal. He tried to slip the ball between Simon’s legs but saw his effort saved by the keeper’s strong right leg.
With the scoreline unchanged, the 2022 FIFA World Cup last-16 clash between Spain and Morocco went to penalties. Bounou emerged as Morocco’s savior, saving Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets’s penalties, while Sarabia hit the post with his opener. Abdelhamid Sabiri, Hakim Ziyech, and Hakimi (winning penalty) put away their kicks to take the Atlas Lions to their first-ever FIFA World Cup quarter-final.
Here are five Spanish players who were particularly disappointing in their embarrassing World Cup exit on Tuesday:
#5 Marcos Llorente
Spain coach Luis Enrique handed Marcos Llorente his first start at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Deployed on the right flank, Llorente went toe-to-toe with Boufal. The battle turned out to be rather lop-sided, as the Moroccan turned him inside out time and time again over the course of the game.
Playing 120 minutes of football, Llorente was dribbled past a staggering four times, misplaced both his attempted crosses, and lost all six of his duels. He also lost possession 13 times, committed a foul, and failed to create any goalscoring opportunities.
#4 Marco Asensio
Real Madrid forward Marco Asensio remained on the fringes in the 2022 FIFA World Cup last-16 clash against Morocco. The Africans marked him tightly and kept him from playing little one-twos with teammates, thus rendering him completely ineffective. He also disappointingly hit the side netting when slipped through on goal by Alba in the 27th minute.
Before being hooked for Alvaro Morata in the 63rd minute, Asensio played only 10 accurate passes (71.4% accuracy), misplaced his only attempted cross, and lost possession 10 times.
#3 Sergio Busquets
Spain’s captain Sergio Busquets had a game to forget against Morocco. His passing was accurate, but he did not pose a threat to the Moroccan defense. Busquets was heckled off the ball quite a few times and lacked the pace to keep up with the opposing midfielders.
To make matters worse, the Barcelona veteran dispatched a very tame penalty in the shootout, which Bounou saved by diving to his right.
Busquets did not play any key passes, misplaced two long balls, lost two of three aerial duels, and ceded possession 11 times on Tuesday.
Barcelona wonderboy Gavi made history on Tuesday, becoming the youngest player to play in a FIFA World Cup knockout game since Pele in 1958. Unfortunately, he failed to mark the monumental occasion with a memorable performance. He struggled to get involved, did not create any goalscoring opportunities, and lost possession quite a few times over the course of the match.
On Tuesday evening, Gavi completed only 17 passes (85% accuracy), lost seven of 12 duels, lost possession seven times, and committed four fouls. He was also dribbled past once and misplaced a cross before being understandably taken off in the 63rd minute.
#1 Ferran Torres
Ferran Torres operated on the right side of the Spanish front line on Tuesday. The Barcelona forward proved to be embarrassingly inadequate on that flank, getting outclassed time and time again by the bubbling Mazraoui.
Playing 75 minutes of football at the Education City Stadium, Torres could not dispatch even a single shot, let alone test Bounou. The former Manchester City man did not play any key passes, failed to pull off three of four dribbles, and misplaced all four of his attempted crosses. Additionally, he lost eight of 10 ground duels, lost possession a staggering 18 times, and was caught offside twice.