Morocco defeats Spain on penaltiesto advance at World Cup. The first ever World Cup to be hosted by an Arab country has produced the first ever quarterfinalist from the Arab world. After a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time, the match went to a penalty shootout, where Morocco prevailed over Spain 3-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the world's most prestigious soccertournament. Morocco is the only other African nation to have achieved this feat.
The World Cup is being played in the Middle East for the first time in its nearly 100-year history. The Moroccan team was only playing in their second knockout game at the tournament, which is being held in the region for the first time.
Morocco midfielder Azzedine Ounahi said:
Right now is a special moment for all Africa, for all the Arab countries, for all the Muslims around this world. You try to make them happy, try to make ourselves happy. And I think it goes quite well.- Azzedine Ounahi
The 2022 FIFAWorld Cup in Qatar is only the second time the tournament has been played in Asia and the first time it has been held in the Arab world.
When Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina on the third day of competition, it was one of the most shocking results in tournament history. Argentina had won the previous two tournaments.
The Saudis were among the teams that were eliminated in the group stage, along with the hosts Qatar and Tunisia. After that, Morocco became the most prominent nation in the Arab world.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui who is the first African to coach an African team to the quarterfinals said:
I’m very proud of my fans, of my people and Arabic people. Also because I think you have Qatari people here, maybe Algerian people, Tunisian people, Arabic people and African people.- Walid Regragui
The game was decided by a penalty shootout, and the winning kick came from a player named Achraf Hakimi, who was born in Madrid and formerly played for Real Madrid.
Additionally, goals were scored by Abdelhamid Sabiri and Hakim Ziyech, both of whom had returned to the national team following disagreements with the previous coach.
Morocco has been the most surprising team throughout the tournament, and on Saturday they will play Portugal in the quarterfinals of the competition.
Morocco, which has a complicated geopolitical relationship with its close neighbor Spain, advanced from a difficult group that included Canada, a semifinalist from the 2018 tournament in Belgium, and the runner-up from the 2018 tournament in Croatia.
The team entered the competition with more than half of its roster comprised of playerswho were not born in Morocco, the highest percentage of any of the 32 countries that were taking part in the competition.
Today I think it showed to the world every Moroccan is Moroccan with his passport. When he comes to the national team, you want to die, you want to fight. And that is what I want to show. And now, we have one example. The coach is born in France but nobody can have my heart but my country.- Walid Regragui
Following the match, King Mohammed VI of Morocco placed a phone call to offer his congratulations to the winning team.
Morocco is the only team from a continent other than Europe or South America to advance to the round of eight at this year's World Cup in Qatar. Morocco also advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup held in Mexico in 1986.
Cameroon, Senegal, and Ghana are the only other countries from Africa to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. None of the three made it through to the semifinals of the competition.
Yassine Bounou, the goalkeeper for Morocco who currently plays for the Spanish club Sevilla, was successful in saving two of the three penalties he was challenged with during the shootout. These saves came from Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler. The shot was made by Pablo Sarabia.
We knew that if we went to the penalty shootout, we had one of the best goalkeepers in the world and we could win it.- Walid Regragui
Regragui said who took over as Morocco's coach in August and had little time to prepare the team for the World Cup.
Sarabia had entered the game in the final minutes of extra time, presumably to participate in the shootout. He came on for Nico Williams, who had also been a substitute earlier in the game.
Spain coach Luis Enrique who before the match said he had asked his players to practice 1,000 penalty kicks while with their clubs.
It’s my responsibility. I picked the first three penalty-takers, and then they could decide themselves. But the first three were my decision, and I would’ve done the same thing again. The only thing I wished I could do was to take Bounou out and put another goalkeeper in there.- Luis Enrique
Spain was eliminated in a penalty shootout by host Russia in the 2018 World Cup, and by Italy in the European Championship semifinals last year. Since winning the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, the team has not advanced past the last 16.