In Dramatic Fashion, Morocco’s Fairytale at the World Cup Continues



After a 3-0 penalty shootout win against Spain, Morocco has progressed to the quarterfinals of the Qatar FIFA 2022 World Cup. The 2022 World Cup has now become Morocco’s best performance at the World Cup as they became the fourth African country ever to reach the World Cup quarterfinal. Atlas Lions of Morocco, who are making their sixth World Cup appearance, became the first African country to progress from the World Cup group stage at the 1986 World Cup.

In what has to be one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup so far, the Moroccans won on penalties after playing out a goalless draw with La Roja of Spain. As part of their fairytale run, the Moroccans topped their group, which included Croatia and Belgium. They defeated Belgium, the second-highest-ranked male footballing country, and played out a goalless draw with World Cup runners-up Croatia. 

Underdogs against Spain

Coming into the match against Spain as the underdogs, the Moroccans played with more tactical discipline from the get-go. While the Spaniards were able to string together over a thousand passes, they were very passive in the final third of their opponent’s half. 

Also Read: Ghana Defeats Korea, Coach Says Result Unfair

With only 23% of the ball possession, the Moroccans still displayed the most attacking threat as the La Rojas could only muster one shot on goal throughout the entire game. The game eventually ended in a 0-0 scoreline after regular time, and it headed into extra time, ending in a stalemate. 

Tactical Breakdown of the Game

Luiz Enrique opted to start Marco Asensio ahead of Alvaro Morata despite Morata’s return of three goals in as many games. He fielded Asensio in a false nine role, however, the move didn’t yield much effect as Asensio only had one shot attempt throughout the game. 

While the Moroccans were as well not successful inside the Spanish box, they were able to snuff the challenge posed by the Spaniards. It was impressive how Amrabat, Ounahi, and Amallah took care of the Spanish midfield threat represented by Pedri, Gavi, and Busquets.

Enrique also opted for Atletico’s Marcos Llorente ahead of Dani Carvajal and Cesar Azplilicueta in the right-back position, however, this experiment was not successful. Llorente was withdrawn after 60 minutes as his performance in the game had been sub-par. He was dribbled past 4 times, he also lost possession 6 times, and conceded a foul.

The Moroccans began to lose strength during extra time, so the Spanish team tried to increase pressure by loading the Moroccan box with crosses. However, the Moroccans were able to snuff out the Spanish pressure and break up the play. 

Spain failed to score a single penalty in the shootout, with Pablo Sarabia and Carlos Soler both missing their spot kicks, along with Sergio Busquets. As soon as the Moroccans dispatched their first two spot kicks, their third penalty was saved, and their final spot kick was converted by Achraf Hakimi, who dispatched Unai Simon with a panenka.

Round of 16 Breakdown

Morocco will now face Portugal in the quarterfinal. The Portuguese comprehensively defeated Switzerland 6-1 with Goncalo Ramos becoming the second youngest player ever to score a World Cup hattrick. The game against Portugal will be Morocco’s toughest challenge at the Mundial as the Portuguese team looks like a team set to make history at this World Cup. 

Also Read: For Senegal, No Mane. No Problem

In the other Round of 16 games, France defeated Poland to set up a showdown with England who comfortably swept aside Senegal. Brazil after a spectacular footballing display against South Korea will take on Croatia who defeated Japan on penalties, and Argentina will face the Netherlands. 

In continuance of European dominance in football, 5 out of the 8 quarterfinalists at this World Cup are from Europe. 

Final Thoughts 

Moroccan, the only African and Arab team remaining in the World Cup, faces a challenge similar to that which was faced by the Black Stars of Ghana at the 2010 World Cup when they were the only African team left. Likewise, Morocco remains the only Arab team left in the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab world. 

David Olujinmi

David Olujinmi studies Engineering but his true passion is research and analysis. He writes about finance, particularly the capital market, investment banking, and asset management. More »

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