Ice-cold Morocco show up arrogant Spain to roar into first ever World Cup quarter-final

Morocco tonight made history in ice-cold fashion as Achraf Hakimi‘s panenka penalty knocked out Spain and confirmed a first ever World Cup quarter-final spot for the nation.

It was a rear-guard display, finished off with a touch of the sublime to teach Spain a lesson in Qatar.

Luis Enrique’s side hoovered up possession, claiming 77 percent across the 120 minutes, just as they did when they faced Japan with a similar approach days earlier.

The tika-taka style can be easy on the eye but they were turgid, slow and unimaginative when it mattered most. They tried to suffocate a spirited Morocco who ended the night roaring with their fans, who seemed to outnumber their Spanish rivals 10-fold inside the Education City Stadium.

The arrogance of the approach was almost summed up by substitute Nico Williams, who was Spain’s most dangerous player during his cameo, coming off in the 118th minute to allow penalty specialist Pablo Sarabia to come on.

An ice-cold panenka penalty. (REUTERS)
An ice-cold panenka penalty. (REUTERS)

Sarabia subsequently crashed his penalty against the post and the Morocco goalkeeper Bono would go on to both Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler’s efforts. Hakimi did the rest.

It was just rewards for a Morocco side who have lived in the shadow of their cross-Mediterranean neighbours’ footballing shadow for some time. It follows a millennia-long rivalry through the location and shared history of the two countries.

Following Bono’s brilliance and Hakimi’s finishing dink, the Moroco squad collectively bowed in respect to the fans and walked to all corners of the stadium to share a historic victory with those in attendance.

Morocco are the feel-good story that this World Cup needs after Qatar faces political criticism for hosting this tournament.

Spain are eliminated on penalties for the second successive World Cup. (AP)
Spain are eliminated on penalties for the second successive World Cup. (AP)

Their homegrown manager Walid Regragui is only six months on from winning the African Champions League with Wydad AC and showed he deserves his place at the top table.

Hakim Ziyech proved a point to his Chelsea who have barely utilised him this season, while young talents Bilal El Khannouss and Azzedine Ounahi showed the future is bright.

Ex-Southampton forward Sofiane Boufal told beIN after the match: “Thanks to all the Moroccans all over the world for their support, to all Arab people, to all Muslim people. This win belongs to you.”

This is a wonderful story that shows the Arab world at its best.