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Morocco shock Spain to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Morocco stunned Spain in a penalty shootout to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history.

Achraf Hakimi (2nd R) sent Morocco into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time with a nerveless winning penalty
Achraf Hakimi (2nd R) sent Morocco into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time with a nerveless winning penalty - Copyright AFP Marco Longari
Achraf Hakimi (2nd R) sent Morocco into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time with a nerveless winning penalty - Copyright AFP Marco Longari
John WEAVER

Morocco stunned Spain in a penalty shootout to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history on Tuesday as Achraf Hakimi struck the decisive penalty.

After 120 minutes without a goal at Education City Stadium, Spain failed to score a single penalty as Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved two and Pablo Sarabia hit the post.

That left Paris Saint-Germain’s Hakimi to settle the tie with a nerveless chipped kick to drive the predominantly Moroccan crowd wild.

The sole remaining team from Africa, and the only Arab team left in Qatar, will face either Portugal or Switzerland in a quarter-final on Saturday.

Morocco are just the fourth African team to reach the last eight of the World Cup — after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

Spain, the 2010 World Cup winners, failed to break down the athletic Moroccan side, with Bounou making a fine save from Dani Olmo’s free-kick in one of the best chances of normal time.

In extra-time, Walid Cheddira could have won the game for Morocco without the gut-wrenching shootout, but as he burst clear in the Spanish area, his shot was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Unai Simon.

In the inquest to a painful defeat, Spain will wonder how PSG pair Sarabia and Carlos Soler, and Barcelona veteran Sergio Busquets, all failed to score in a shootout that Morocco won 3-0.

“It was a pity, it was decided on penalties in the most cruel way,” Busquets said.

“The penalties cost us but I am proud of my team,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

“I take all the responsibility because I chose the first three takers and the players decided the rest — we didn’t get to the fourth.”

The Moroccan celebrations spread across Doha, where thousands of fans gathered at Souq Wafiq, which has become a focal point for fans in the capital, banging drums and blowing horns.

– Portugal drop Ronaldo –

In the final last-16 tie late Tuesday, Portugal dropped Cristiano Ronaldo for the clash with Switzerland with Goncalo Ramos selected up front instead.

Ronaldo, 37, the only man to score at five World Cups, angered Portugal coach Fernando Santos with his reaction to being substituted in the last group game, the defeat by South Korea.

Ronaldo was hogging the headlines at the tournament even before he kicked a ball after launching a tirade against Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag.

Following an exit from Old Trafford by “mutual agreement” he is now seeking a new team, with sources saying he is in talks over a blockbuster deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr.

The superstar forward, who is appearing in what is almost certainly his last World Cup, has been a shadow of his former self in Qatar despite all the hype.

After scoring a penalty in his team’s opening clash against Ghana to become the first player to score at five World Cups, he has huffed and puffed but has failed to find the net again.

Santos said he expected a close contest against Switzerland. Portugal beat the Swiss 4-0 in the UEFA Nations League in June before losing 1-0 in the reverse fixture.

The Swiss and Portuguese are fighting for the final quarter-final spot.

On Monday, five-time winners Brazil swatted aside South Korea 4-1 and will face 2018 finalists Croatia, who squeezed past Japan via a penalty shoot-out.

In Friday’s other quarter-final, the Netherlands take on Argentina, while England take on France and the tournament’s top scorer Kylian Mbappe on Saturday.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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