Education City Stadium is the venue as Morocco and Spain battle it out for a place in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday at 3.00 pm.
Walid Regragui’s men have emerged as one of the tournament’s surprise packages, making it to the round of 16 as Group F winners while leaving Croatia, Belgium and Canada in their wake.
In doing so, the Moroccans didn’t lose a single match (W2, D1) while holding both abovementioned European nations goalless before beating the CONCACAF qualifying group toppers 2-1 on matchday three.
Having become the first African country to complete a World Cup group stage campaign with less than two goals conceded, Morocco will be confident about upsetting the odds against more heavily fancied Spain.
La Furia Roja got their Qatar journey off to a phenomenal start as they recorded their biggest-ever World Cup triumph in a 7-0 trouncing of Costa Rica, but that was pretty much it from the Spaniards.
While they could be forgiven for drawing 1-1 with downtrodden Germany, a dismal 2-1 matchday-three defeat to Japan, where they led at half-time, left a bitter taste in Luis Enrique’s mouth.
Seeking redemption after that unfathomable result against the Samurai Blue, Spain will be out to at least go one better than their last-16 exit in Russia four years ago.
Bringing their ill-fated 2018 World Cup campaign into the equation, the Moroccans have strung together four matches in the competition without losing (W2, D2).
It puts them on the cusp of a flattering milestone as they could become the first African nation since Cameroon between 1982 and 1990 to go unbeaten in five World Cup games on the trot.
That’s where their lack of experience at this stage of the tournament could throw a spanner in the works, with Morocco’s only previous foray into the World Cup round of 16 yielding a 1-0 loss to Germany.
Unlike their rivals, the Spaniards have been a permanent fixture in the World Cup knockout phase this millennium, reaching this stage in five of the six tournaments from 2002 onwards.
However, Spain last made it out of the World Cup last 16 in 2010 when they actually went on to lift the World Cup for the only time in the country’s history.
Optimism about replicating that feat this winter has been doused following recent disappointments, yet Enrique’s men can draw confidence from already bettering their eight-goal tally from that triumphant 2010 campaign.
Morocco vs Spain Head-to-Head
Spain hit back twice to hold Morocco to an eye-catching 2-2 draw in the 2018 World Cup group stage, with Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas bagging a last-gasp equaliser.
La Furia Roja boasted a 100% H2H record against their African counterparts beforehand, having won both legs in their inter-confederation 1962 World Cup playoff tie.
Morocco vs Spain Potential Line-ups
Morocco (4-3-3): Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui; Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Abdelhamid Sabiri; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Spain (4-3-3): Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Gavi; Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo.
Morocco vs Spain Prediction
Given Morocco’s outstanding showings during the group stage and the unpredictable nature of this tournament, it’s impossible to write the Atlas Lions off, no matter the odds.
There’s no doubt that Spain will win the battle for possession after Enrique’s lads exchanged a staggering 2,489 passes in their opening three outings in Qatar.
But the Moroccans’ lightning-quick transitions, like those Japan used to tear the Spaniards apart last time out, could create all sorts of problems for the former champions.
While we wouldn’t go as far as to anticipate a Morocco win, we’d certainly not be surprised to see Spain pack their bags come Tuesday.
How to Watch?
You can watch all 2022 World Cup games live online from anywhere courtesy of Private Internet Access, a world-class VPN that provides a legal solution by connecting to their United Kingdom streaming servers and watching it for free on BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub.
Football Today readers can get a massive 82% off a subscription, which means it will cost you as low as $2.19 per month!
World Cup 2022 Links
- Pep Guardiola denies City’s reliance on Rodri but the stats disagree
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Arsenal – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Man Utd boss Ten Hag scoops Premier League MOTM award
- This Week In Football: Last-minute UWNL drama, Santos relegated & more
- Morning Mix: Arsenal face acid test at Villa, Chelsea boss has no excuses
- Arsenal or Liverpool: Who is better placed to beat Man City to the title?
- Copa America 2024 draw: Argentina to face Chile, Brazil and USMNT discover their groups
- Four reasons PSV Eindhoven are overtaking Ajax on and off the pitch
- Matip out for the rest of the season – what do Liverpool do now?
- How has extra added time changed Premier League results?