By: Marvin A. Azrak
Yassine Bounou stopped three Spain penalties after making just one save over 120 minutes of Morocco’s 0-0 (3-0 pens) win in the World Cup Round of 16 on Tuesday. The victory sends the nation, who became the first Arab country to win a knockout stage game, to their maiden World Cup quarter final against Portugal. Spanish born Achraf Hakimi sealed the penalties when he joined Abdelhamid Sabiri(RD1) Hakim Ziyech(RD2) in conversions. Spain Coach Luis Enrique said before Tuesday’s showdown that he had instructed his players to take “at least 1,000 penalties” in the build-up to the World Cup ensuring they were ready to deal with the pressure of a potential penalty shoot-out, but it proved to amount to much of anything at all.
Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and captain Sergio Busquets missed their penalties for Spain; with Sarabia hitting the post and Morocco Bounou stopping the other two. Spain had possession of the ball more than 75 percent of possession during normal and extra time, completing nearly 1,000 passes in total, but managed just a single shot on goal throughout even field play.
Morocco won group F by going undefeated, as they played to a scoreless draw with another quarterfinalist in Croatia before dispatching Belgium 2-0, and Canada 2-1. For Spain, it’s a stunning exit after the World Cup started out splendidly with a 7-0 victory over Costa Rica, and tied Germany at 1. The Spaniards fell to Japan 2-1 in their last group stage game thus netting the two seed and matching up with the Moroccans.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES were helpful in this article.
PORTUGAL 6 – SWITZERLAND 1
No Ronaldo, no problem. Despite receiving news prior to their World Cup round of 16 match their star player was benched due to an “attitude problem”, Portugal received a hat trick from his replacement Goncalo Ramos, en route to a 6-1 romp of Switzerland that puts Portugal in a quarterfinal bout with Morocco. Portugal played with urgency early and often, as midfielder Joao Felix steadied the offense who got going when Ramos got the scoring started with a header goal in the 17th minute, before veteran
Pepe became the second-oldest goalscorer at the World Cup behind Cameroon great Roger Mila, as his goal in the 33rd minute doubled the lead heading into halftime. It didn’t get much better for Switzerland coming out of the intermission, as Portugal kept them on the backfoot early in the second half, before exploding on goals by Ramos and Raphael Guerriero, who increased the lead to 4-0. After the Swiss got one back in the 55th minute off of a long drive by Manuel Akanji, Ramos notched his hat trick in the 67th minute, and substitute Rafael Leao socked one in stoppage time to make it an even six. Cristiano Ronaldo is available for the quarterfinals but it’s unclear if he will play.
The winner of the Portugal-Morocco match on Saturday, will battle the England- France winner in the semifinals. On the other side, Lionel Messi will lead Argentina against the Netherlands, while Neymar leads the high-flying Brazilians against Croatia. The semi finals will take place on Tuesday December 13th and Wednesday December 14, with the third place match set for December 17, and the finals set for December 18.