It has been back-to-back penalty shootouts in the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup but in the most recent one, Morocco and Spain delivered a cracker of a game for fans at the stadium and for the millions watching at home.
Fans were raucous from start to finish as Morocco battled Spain to a stalemate, creating chances and matching the 2010 World Cup winners pound for pound, skill for skill.
The Spanish dominated possession as expected, holding on to over 70 percent of the ball and making over three times more passes than their Moroccan counterparts. However, Morocco had clearer chances but were only able to direct their shots on target two times in the game.
Spain, on the other hand, had ten shots with only one on target, showing the poor quality of their finishing in the game. Morocco fans cheered from start to finish, drowning out their Spanish counterparts to make the Education City stadium feel like home for their Atlas Lions. However, both sides were able to put up very solid performances in defence to keep each other out and force the game to penalties.
A brave performance from the Atlas Lions
Morocco were one of the stories of the group stages, finishing top of Group F which had Belgium, Croatia and Canada. They picked up two wins against Canada and Belgium to seal the top spot and set up a round of 16 game with Spain.
Spain, on the other hand, were thankful for their performance against Costa Rica which saw them rack up enough goals to stave off Germany, who finished with the same points as they did. That set them up in a very tough position against Morocco, who were proving to be the dark horses of the tournament.
After a very tough game which saw both teams exchange attacks, fouls, tackles, and counterattacks the game went into extra time. However, nothing was able to separate both teams and the game fell into the comfort zone of the Moroccans, a penalty shootout. Yassine Bounou looked unfazed as he stepped up to the goal line for every Spain penalty.
La Furia Roja manager Luis Enrique had brought on Pablo Sarabia to see out the rest of the game as he prepared for penalties, but Sarabia, noted for his prowess from the spot, missed the first spot kick of the game when his kick hit the crossbar. That sent a wave of disappointment down the rest of the team which they were unable to shake off, as Bounou stopped two more penalties to give his team a fighting chance.
Morocco, meanwhile, saw one of their penalties saved but scored three in beautiful fashion, backing their confidence in front of the penalty spot with action. Now, they will look forward to facing either Portugal or Switzerland and breaking the African duck of not making it to the semi-finals.