Morocco Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals by Beating Spain on Penalty Kicks


The clock has not struck midnight on Morocco’s Cinderella run just yet.

The nation has reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in its history after beating Spain in the round of 16. Abdelhamid Sabiri, Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi scored in Morocco’s first ever World Cup penalty shootout, while Yassine Bounou stopped all three PKs he faced.

There were only two combined shots on goal across the first 90 minutes before each side let golden opportunities slip in extra time. Moroccan substitute Walid Cheddira nearly broke the deadlock in the 104th minute, but Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simón made a right-footed save to keep the score at 0-0. Spain then came within inches of a goal on the final play of extra time, but Pablo Sarabia’s shot nicked the far post.

With a scoreless tie through 120 minutes, Morocco and Spain moved onto the second World Cup penalty shootout in as many days. Croatia and Japan were tied at 1-1 before Croatia advanced to the quarterfinals with an impressive shootout performance.

Once Tuesday’s match reached a shootout, it was all Morocco.

Sabiri drilled the first shot to give Morocco a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Ziyech went right down the middle for Morocco’s second PK tally and Hakimi cemented the victory on Morocco’s fourth attempt.

Things could not have gone much worse for Spain in the shootout. Sarabia hit the post once again on Spain’s first attempt and Bounou proceeded to stymie Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets on Spain’s ensuing tries.

Tuesday’s match marked the first time Morocco had ever played extra time at the World Cup before. The team had never won a competitive shootout before, either, but it did not let that experience stop it from pulling off a World Cup stunner.

The Atlas Lions will be back in action at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday. The team will find out its quarterfinals opponent later on Tuesday, as Portugal and Switzerland will face off in the final round of 16 match at 2 p.m. ET.

Morocco has faced Portugal twice at the World Cup, including a 1-0 loss in the 2018 group stage. The country has never played against Switzerland at the tournament.

On the losing side, Spain is out because of a penalty shootout in the round of 16 for the second consecutive World Cup. The team lost to Russia on PKs in the same round at the 2018 tournament.

After erupting with seven goals in its group play opener against Costa Rica, Spain mustered just two tallies across its last three matches in Qatar. It was held scoreless across 120 minutes – and a shootout – against a Moroccan defense that has only conceded one goal across its four World Cup matches thus far.

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