Everything you need to know about Tuesday’s last-16 encounter at Education City Stadium
- Morocco topped Group F ahead of Croatia, Belgium and Canada
- Spain won once in group stage but finished runners-up behind Japan
- Teams drew group fixture at Russia 2018
Morocco had one of the best group stage campaigns at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, starting with a 0-0 draw against Russia 2018 runners-up Croatia before an excellent 2-0 win over Belgium. A 2-1 success against Canada secured the African team’s spot at the Group F summit.
Coach Walid Regragui’s team struck an effective balance between attack and defence, with key men Sofyan Amrabat, Youssef En-Nesyri, Nayef Aguerd, and Achraf Hakimi in outstanding form.
Spain opened their campaign with a 7-0 hammering of Costa Rica and that goalfest would prove unexpectedly crucial to Round-of-16 qualification. Luis Enrique’s team were pegged back to draw 1-1 with Germany, before Japan overcame a one-goal deficit to shock the European side. Spain ultimately progressed as runners-up behind tournament-surprise-package Japan.
The 2010 World Cup winners were exceptional against Costa Rica and controlled large parts of the meeting with Germany. Indeed, Spain were unquestionably in charge during the opening half against Japan before a salutary reminder over the perils of switching off, even for 45 minutes. Pedri and Gavi, the young midfielder pair from Barcelona, were among the standout Spanish group-stage performers, while forward Dani Olmo was in similarly good touch. Alvaro Morata scored three goals in three games and entered the second phase leading the Golden Boot race.
Date and time
Tuesday 6 December, 18:00 local time
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Morocco’s medical team are working overtime to prepare Achraf Hakimi for the knockout clash after the classy Paris Saint-Germain right-back played through injury against Canada. Selim Amallah is reportedly fit to feature after the midfielder was limited to 25 minutes off the bench in that meeting with the Canadians on Thursday.
Luis Enrique will recall a host of key figures rested for the Japan clash. There are doubts over defender Cesar Azpilicueta’s fitness, with Dani Carvajal of Real Madrid poised for a second start in Qatar.
Possible starting XIs
Morocco: Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahi, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal.
Spain: Unai Simon, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Cesar Azpilicueta or Dani Carvajal, Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo.
- The sides have played each other on three occasions, including once at a World Cup
- They first met in qualification for the 1962 World Cup, when Spain won a first-leg tie 1-0 in Morocco and edged the return 3-2 to reach the tournament in Chile.
- Their most recent meeting was drawn 2-2 in the group stage of Russia 2018.
Key match stats
- The last time Spain progressed beyond the Round of 16 was at South Africa 2010 when they went on to win the tournament
- This is Morocco’s second time in the Round of 16, their first coming in 1986 when they lost to eventual finalists West Germany 1-0
- This will be Spain’s first match against African opposition in the knockout stages of a World Cup
- Spain have played five matches against African sides at World Cups, winning three and drawing one. Current coach Luis Enrique was in the starting XI when they lost 3-2 against Nigeria at France 1998.
- Morocco are undefeated in their past four World Cup matches (W2 D2)
- Cameroon are the only African side to have recorded a five-match unbeaten World Cup run, a feat they achieved between 1982 and 1990
Coach Luis Enrique, whose Spain team relinquished a one-goal lead to lose their final group game. against Japan: “If against Morocco we have the fortune to go in front, Morocco, will risk it all at full pelt again. We have to show more strength in the moments when the opposition is pressing us.”
Morocco forward Zakaria Aboukhlal, who scored off the bench to seal a memorable group victory over Belgium: “I am very happy to have reached the last 16. We do not want to stop here. We want to go further and, God willing, we will keep going. We are very happy for Moroccan fans. We see many people who came here from Morocco. I would like to thank them.
‘I am very happy with the way Arabs here are helping one another. We were happy when Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina. We also felt when we defeated Belgium and Canada that other Arab countries were happy for us.”