Hat-trick hero Ramos helps Portugal against the Swiss
AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Achraf Hakimi calmly converted a penalty to send Morocco into their first World Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 penalty shoot-out win over former champions Spain after a close encounter in the round of 16 ended goalless on Tuesday.
Spanish-born Hakimi converted the decisive penalty and caused a deafening roar and cheering from the Moroccan fans after their side became the first Arab nation to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays for Spain’s Sevilla, saved penalties from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets after Pablo Sarabia hit the post and Hakimi, a product of Real Madrid’s youth system, kept his nerve to give his team a quarter to earn. Final against Portugal.
Morocco became just the fourth African nation to finish in the last eight of the tournament, 12 years after Ghana in South Africa.
After an ambivalent match ended 0-0 after extra time and both sides had just a few shots on target, Morocco enjoyed the roar of support from their red-clad fans in the shoot-out as Spain collapsed.
Spain had more than 75% possession and made almost 1000 passes, but Morocco gave them problems on the break and goalkeeper Unai Simon made some good saves.
“We fought and made the Moroccan people happy, we made history and Morocco deserved it, the Moroccan people united us on the pitch,” said coach Walid Regragui.
Moroccan defender Jawad Yamiq was proud of his side’s performance.
“We honored Arab and African football, coach Regragui gave us the confidence we needed in this game, a big morale boost,” he said.
“We knew Spain depended on their possession of the ball and we played with that in mind. They posed no danger.”
It was the fourth time Spain has been eliminated from a World Cup on penalties and the second in a row
It was a huge blow for Luis Enrique’s team, who came to Qatar as one of the favorites after reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals and Nations League final last year.
“We completely dominated the game, it’s a shame it went like this,” the Spanish coach told TVE.
“It’s the hardest thing to play against a team like Morocco who work hard.
“The penalties cost us, but I’m very proud of the team and all the players. I am very sorry for the result, but I congratulate Morocco.”
Spain spent large chunks of the game circling Morocco’s penalty area without attempting shots, balls or movement to break their well-organized opponents.
They tried to play the possession game that was the hallmark of the great Spanish teams that won two European Championships and the World Cup between 2008 and 2012.
But they lacked the power and Morocco allowed them possession while trying to capitalize on the pace of Hakim Ziyech and Soufiane Boufal.
A foul on the latter gave the Africans their first chance to score when Hakimi overplayed a free-kick.
In a tight first half, the only other chances came when defender Nayef Aguerd headed over and Marco Asensio hit the side netting for Spain.
Dani Olmo had Spain’s first shot on goal in the 54th minute with an angle shot that Bounou parried with his hand.
Luis Enrique sent on Alvaro Morata and Nico Williams to breathe some life into his team and Morocco had to go deep into extra time to get through extra time without conceding.
They did it and Spain’s failure on penalties sparked wild celebrations among adoring Moroccan fans, who will get at least one more chance to make their mark in Qatar.
RAMOS HELPS PORTUGAL THRASH SWISS
Portugal’s Goncalo Ramos made his debut at the World Cup on Tuesday with a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Switzerland, sending his side through to the quarter-finals for the first time in 16 years and setting up a tie against Morocco.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos had benched the country’s top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo and tasked Benfica striker Ramos with leading the line, despite the 21-year-old making his debut in a friendly just three days before the World Cup.
Ramos had only played 10 minutes as a substitute in Qatar but the youngster looked like he belonged on the big stage with a memorable performance for Portugal who did not miss Ronaldo – a late substitute whose goal was ruled out for offside.
After a tepid start, the game came alive when Ramos scored the opening goal in the 17th minute, picking up a sharp pass from Joao Felix before flicking the ball into the top corner from a tight angle to put the Portuguese ahead bring to.
They doubled their lead through skipper Pepe when the 39-year-old perfectly timed his jump to rise above the two Swiss centre-backs and headed home from a Bruno Fernandes corner in the 33rd minute, with Yann Sommer batting well again was.
Swiss striker Breel Embolo was frustrated by the Portuguese defense despite the odd onslaught in the last third, while their best chance of the half came when Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick was cornered. – Reuters