Posted on: December 6, 2022, 06:05h.
Last updated on: December 6, 2022, 06:21h.
They’re calling Qatar 2022 the World Cup of upsets, but this one takes the cake. Morocco knocked Spain out of the World Cup on Tuesday after two tense hours of play and a penalty shootout.
Yes, Morocco, a team that was 250/1 to win the trophy at the start of the tournament, and which failed to win a single game at the last one.
And yes, that’s the same Spain (there’s only one that we know of) that Casino.org suggested could go all the way after its first-round 7-0 goal-avalanche against Costa Rica in the group stages. Costa Rica must have been terrible!
Rock the Kasbah
Maybe we should have seen the signs. Ultimately, Morocco finished first in a group that included Belgium, a team that has spent much of the last decade at the top of the FIFA World Rankings, although with precious little to show for it. Morocco beat Belgium, 2-0.
And it topped the group while conceding just one goal, which it scored itself – an own goal by Nayef Aguerd in the game against Canada.
Morocco has top talent in Hakim Ziyech, a Champions League winner with EPL giant Chelsea, and Achraf Hakimi, who plays club soccer for Paris Saint Germain.
Again, Morocco defended robustly against Spain’s skillful technicians. While the Spanish had 76% of possession in the game, Morocco limited them to just one shot on target.
A penalty shootout perhaps piles more psychological pressure on the team that is “supposed” to win the game, and it showed. Spain’s players failed to score any of their three kicks, while their neighbors across the Aboran Sea buried three out of four.
Morocco’s Hakimi, who was born in Spain and grew up in Madrid, took the winning penalty in front of a wall of Spanish supporters, who jeered and whistled from behind the goal. No pressure then!
If he felt it, he didn’t show it. Hakimi dinked the ball down the middle over Unai Simon, as the Spanish keeper dived to his right. It was just the kind of coolness that deserted all of Spain’s penalty takers.
Incidentally, this is the eighth World Cup penalty shootout in a row won by the team that took its kicks first.
Having booked a date in the quarter finals against Portugal, which beat Switzerland 6-1 later in the day, Morocco is just three games away from producing one of the craziest outsider wins in sporting history. Sportsbooks are taking notice, and have shaved a zero off its pre-tournament price.
It’s now 25-1 to win it all.
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