Africa’s only representative left at the 2022 World Cup, Morocco, stand a chance of adding their name to the list of African quarter-finalists when they face Spain in the round of 16 on Tuesday. A feat, only Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana have achieved.
While Cameroon and Ghana failed to match the target as they bowed out in the group phase, Senegal went closer to achieving it once more until England stopped them in the round of 16 last Sunday. Morocco themselves have been close before. In 1986, the Atlas Lions were on the verge of reaching the last eight when West Germany’s Lothar Matthäus scored in the 88th minute against them in the round of 16.
36 years on and the Moroccans are on the verge of progressing to the quarter-finals, having won a tough group that included second and 12th-ranked Belgium and Croatia, respectively. Walid Regragui’s men drew a scoreless draw with the former before shocking Belgium in the second game. The Atlas Lions extended their undefeated streak with a 2-1 victory over Canada, securing first place in Group F and setting up a meeting with 2010 champions, Spain.
La Roja started their campaign by recording their biggest win at the World Cup with a 7-0 thrashing over Costa Rica but lacked the needed goals in their subsequent matches. Luis Enrique’s men had to settle for a draw when they saw a late equaliser after taking the lead against Germany in their second match.
They were also stunned by Japan in their final group game, when the Blue Samurais came from behind to defeat them 2-1, leaving the Spanish in second place in group E.
Spain will face Morocco for the second time in the World Cup, but they have a strong record against African opponents. They’ve won three times, lost once, and drawn once.
FORM GUIDE(LAST FIVE MATCHES)
Morocco have yet to record a loss in their last five matches while conceding just a goal. Spain on the other hand have scored in each of their last five matches with three wins, a loss and a draw. They have however conceded in each of their last two matches.
1 December 2022 Canada 1-2 Morocco 2022 World Cup Group F
27 November 2022 Belgium 0-2 Morocco 2022 World Cup Group F
23 November 2022 Morocco 0-0 Croatia 2022 World Cup Group F
17 November 2022 Morocco 3–0 Georgia Friendly
27 September 2022 Morocco 0–0 Paraguay Friendly
1 December 2022 Japan 2-1 Spain 2022 World Cup Group E
27 November 2022 Spain 1-1 Germany 2022 World Cup Group E
23 November 2022 Spain 7-0 Costa Rica 2022 World Cup Group E
17 November 2022 Jordan 1–3 Spain Friendly
27 September 2022 Portugal 0–1 Spain UEFA Nations League
HEAD TO HEAD
It was a thrilling 2-2 draw when these two sides met four years ago in their only World Cup encounter.
25 June 2018 Spain 2-2 Morocco FIFA World Cup
Wahid Regragui will have a fully fit squad ahead of the knockout tie against Spain in spite of Achraf Hakimi’s ankle upset. Morocco’s lineup is likely to be repeated.
Bono; Hakimi, Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Sahiri; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal
Enrique is expected to have a fully fit squad at his disposal for Spain’s first knockout match. For their match against Japan, the former Barcelona manager made five changes to the lineup that drew with Germany. Cesar Azpilicueta and Dani Olmo missed training after Japan’s defeat, as did David Raya, but are expected to be fit for Spain.
(4-3-3): Simon; Carvajal, Rodri, Laporte, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Gavi; Torres, Morata, Olmo