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Morocco qualify for World Cup quarter final after defeating Spain
The Atlas Lions of Morocco have qualified for the quarter-final of the World Cup for the first time in their history.
The North Africans put up a resolute display holding Spain to a barren draw inside 120 minutes before subduing the 2010 champions 3-0 in the ensuing penalty kick at the Education Stadium.
Tuesday’s outing was another incredible performance from the Walid Regregui-led men who have been turning heads with their scintillating displays at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Morocco went the whole mile for 120 minutes, making sure the Spaniards did not breach their defence.
The penalty shootout then saw the Lions showing class with goalkeeper Bono recording a hat trick of saves before Madrid-born Archaf Hakimi punished Spain with the winning penalty kick.
Morocco will now face either Portugal or Switzerland in the quarterfinal.
Despite being held by the Spaniards in the first 10 minutes, the Atlas Lions were the first to produce a goal-threatening chance with Hakim Ziyech blasting wide in the sixth minute.
The Lions soon got another chance after Boufal was pulled by Gavi and Archaf Hakimi’s freekick went wide in the 12th minute.
Spain, however, put some pressure on Morocco’s defence with Gavi’s shot hitting the woodwork. The rebound was parried to safety before the assistant referee ruled the attempts offside in the 26th minute.
A minute later, Marco Asensio’s one-on-one attempt was played sideways.
In the 33nd minute, Morocco recorded their first shot on target from Mazraoui who dispossessed Torres and sent an outside shot towards Unai Simon who had to save it twice.
About 10 minutes later, Morocco’s chance for an opener was blown after Nayet Aguerd missed Boufal’s cross.
Ten minutes into the second half, Spain got their first shot on target in the game after Asensio’s free kick was saved by Moroccan goalkeeper, Bounuo.
Meanwhile, with the game going into the last 20 minutes, Morocco kept La Roja off bay to continue their unbeaten streak.
Eight minutes later, Danny Olmo’s effort from Jordi Alba’s cross went wide. Olmo then failed to convert another cross from Nico Williams in the 80th minute.
Six minutes later, the Lions showed some offensive glimpse with substitute Walid Cheddira spinning Ziyech’s pass but was saved by Simon. Another exchange of play between Hakim Ziyech and Azzedine Ounahi went off target in the 88th minute.
Morocco’s Bounou, hanging on for the extra-time, denied Pedri what would have been the last show for La Roja with a pullout to the Barcelona midfielder’s free-kick.
Morocco then extended the game to extra-time.
But while the Desert Foxes were beaten, the story was different for the Atlas Lions who held on for what turned to be a one-sided penalty shootout
AbdelHamid Sabiri scored the first spotkick for Morocco while Sarabia hit the post just like he did some minutes earlier.
Hakim Ziyech scored for the Lions and Bono saved Carlos Soler’s spotkick. However, Simon saved Badr Benoun’s spot kick and Sergio Busquet played into the hands of Bono.
Without wasting time, Spanish born Hakimi displaced Simon to send Morocco to their first ever quarter-final . Meanwhile, Spain recorded their first heavy defeat in a penalty shootout as they failed to score any of the three spotkicks.
Morocco now carry Africa’s lone flag into the last eight and will now have their eyes on becoming the first team from continent to make it to the semi-final.
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