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Morocco stun Spain on penalties to qualify for Quarterfinals

Morocco stun Spain on penalties to qualify for Quarterfinals

Achraf Hakimi made himself a hero with a chipped winning penalty as Morocco stunned Spain in a shootout after a goalless draw to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

The two teams couldn’t be separated after 120 minutes and Spain failed to convert any of their three penalties, with goalkeeper Yaccine Bounou brilliantly saving two.

The north African side’s fans had been making themselves heard all game but the atmosphere in the stands did not match the attritional battle on the pitch.

Spain hogged the ball and Morocco sat back plugging the gaps, with very few clear-cut chances being created.

Luis Enrique’s side came closest to breaking the deadlock courtesy of Dani Olmo, who struck an arrowed drive from the angle which Bounou pushed away and the goalkeeper also did brilliantly well to keep out Olmo’s dangerous free-kick late on.

Morocco were playing on the counter and should have scored in the opening period but Nayef Aguerd sent his unmarked header over, while their only shot on target came via Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range drive which was gathered by Unai Simon.

With the sides not being able to be separated, the game went into extra time and substitute Walid Cheddira had Morocco’s best chance, but scuffed his shot straight at Simon from eight yards out.

Sevilla goalkeeper Bounou seemed to feed of that energy, saving efforts from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets, while Sarabia struck the post.

Star player Hakimi stepped up and was the coolest man under the most intense pressure, dinking his penalty – a ‘Panenka’ – straight down the middle as Morocco surged into the quarters.

Morocco’s only previous appearance in the last 16 came in 1986, but they have now extended their unbeaten run in the World Cup to five games and kept a clean sheet in six out of their last seven in all competitions.

An African football Journalist with a passion for the beautiful game. He is also a freelance Sports Photographer and Graphic designer.

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