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FIFA WORLD CUP 2022

A Lion’s share win! 

Morocco defeats mighty Spain in penalties to seal their spot in the Last 8

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Morocco’s pathway to glory

 The Atlas Lions (Morocco national team) have taken the Internet by storm. After all, it takes a lion’s heart to defeat tournament favourites Spain. The Spanish not only brought one of the youngest and most talented squads in Qatar but also a rich football legacy: Being the 2010 World Champions and the master of  (Tiki-taka) heavy passing game style.  

But truth be told, the 2022 World Cup has been Morocco’s big stage to shine. They held Luka Modric and company to a frustrating goalless draw in their opening game. Then a two goal win against the Belgian ‘golden generation’ (comprising the likes of De Bruyne and Hazard) that brought them the deserved recognition before sealing a safe passage to the Round of 16 with a comfortable win against Canada. 

Morocco has brought a real force to the tournament and also a strong squad. Their star players Hakimi and Ziyech are common names on the tongues of football fans across the globe. 

On the Spanish side of the Gibraltar

On the other side of the strait of Gibraltar. ‘La Roja’ (Spanish football team)  started the World Cup with a stunning seven goal win over Costa Rica which saw six different scorers. With that performance, they silenced their critics and maintained their status quo as one of the tournament favourites. 

Luis Enrique’s men however have failed to shine as bright since then. A dull draw against the Germans followed by a controversial 2-1 defeat to the Japanese have led to fans questioning the exclusion of veteran defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Thiago Alcantara.

 A goalless draw but many a scares

Favourites Spain playing in their navy blue away kit seemed a shadow of their mighty self as Hakimi struck a decent free kick missing the Spanish goal by inches. The shot brought a scare on the faces of Spanish fans who seemed far less in number when compared to the red shirts who were passionately shouting and beating drums to create momentum for their team at Education City stadium.

‘Super sub’ Alvaro Morata got the closest to the Moroccan goal as he whipped in a dangerous cross that almost touched the goal but failed to find any Spanish striker for the tap-in. Olmo’s free kick was a hard save for Bono (Moroccan goalie) who had to stay alert as the Spanish players ducked in, letting the ball travel directly to the goal with one bounce on the way. Spanish keeper, Unai Simon too made a decisive save of Walid Chhedira’s attempt on goal with his leg stopping the shot akin to Iker Casillas saving Dutch legend Arjen Robben’s attempt in the 2010 World Cup final.

The unluckiest man that day however was Pablo Sarabia. The PSG striker played his first game in the tournament for Spain against Morocco. Smartly brought in by Luis Enrique in the dying minutes of the game as a good shooter for penalties. Sarabai on the contrary almost finished the game single handedly as he was picked by a delightful Sergio Busquets crosswhich happened to be the last action of the game. Sarabia’s shot beat the Moroccan keeper but hit the crossbar and went away. 

Penalty Shootout!

Some ten minutes later, it was the same with his penalty, beating the keeper but hitting the post in the cruelest of ways. While Sarabia had a night to forget, Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou who plays his club football with Seville in Spain had the best nights of his career, saving two of the three Spanish penalties, perhaps being aware of the game-style of his opposition players.

Spain missed all their penalties in a shocking manner, Morocco on the other hand converted all their penalties save one, in some style. The Winning penalty, a cheeky panenka chip from Hakimi sealed the deal for Walid Regragui’s men, who became the only African nation to reach the quarters of this World Cup. 

 Morocco now face an in-form Portugal in their quarter-final clash on December 10 at 8:30 PM (IST)

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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