The Arab world celebrated a huge win as Morocco defeated Spain 3-0 on penalties Wednesday morning to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Before the whistle blew to start the match between Spain and Morocco, 6 countries already progressed to the next stage: England, France, Croatia, Brazil, Netherlands and Argentina.
Spain was the odds on favorites to progress based on the players’ style of play and pedigree. Unfortunately, Morocco had other plans. Much like the wars they fought a century ago, this was to a lesser degree another fight to the death. Death from football glory that is the World Cup.
The Atlas Lions were resolute and combative against Spain, biting into tackles, defending their box fiercely and always ready to counter any Spanish build up.
Spain was not as sleek and incisive. Chances were few and far between. The result may also have to do with the quality of the Moroccans being understated. They, too, have world class players like Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi who can influence games on their day.
The game was tied nil-nil at the end of regulation even if Spain had 77 percent possession. Unfortunately, it only had one shot on target the entire game, including overtime. As a matter of fact Morocco had double Spain’s shot on target, and if it weren’t for a couple of outstanding saves from Spain’s keeper Unai Simon, the outcome might have been long settled.
Humorous posts on social media about Spain’s futility during the penalty shoot out were also amusing. One post read: “Japan just held the record for the most number of shots missed in a penalty shootout. Spain: Hold my beer.”.
Spain did not make a single shot in the shootout to lose 3-0 on penalties. The hero was the Moroccan keeper who happens to have a rockstar name, Bono.
A real dark horse has finally emerged from the teams that reached the last 8 in Morocco. Morocco will be facing Portugal, which will be trying to write its own history in its World Cup journey.
Portugal defeated Switzerland in a resounding fashion, 6-1, with Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench. He came on in the 73rd minute when the game was already decided.
Two compelling stories may transpire from this match up. A legitimate underdog, Morocco’s improbable journey deep into the World Cup final after beating Spain and Portugal in the last 16 and final 8, or Cristiano Ronaldo’s swan song by scoring and tying the record of Eusebio for most goals scored by a player for Portugal and going all the way to the final against Lionel Messi.
Either way, It will be epic.
Photo credit: Associated Press/ Luca Bruno