The Moroccan team surprised everyone since the beginning of the World Cup, nobody expected them to finish top of their group, made up of Belgium and Croatia. They started their group phase with a sad draw against Croatia. But the magic happened in the second game, with two goals from free kicks. In the last match, they won against Canada and validated their ticket for the round of 16.
The Spanish started their group phase on a high note with a 7-0 victory over Costa Rica. But then they lost their effectiveness with a draw against Germany, before finishing with a sad defeat against Japan. The Spanish fell back into their bad habits in this last game, finishing the match with… 83% of possession. They will have to be more efficient to go further in this competition.
Morocco vs Spain: The Spanish not as impressive as expected
Morocco are about to play their first round of 16 since 1986, and they are looking to do better than the last time they reached the knockout phase. And this could be their year. Their explosive team has done damage in the group stage, culminating in a 2-0 win over Belgium. The Moroccan players seem to have matured this year, and they could do some damage.
On the other hand, the Spanish generation could be a dream team, but they seem to be falling back into their old ways. Their first game ended in a crushing 7-0 victory over Costa Rica. But as soon as the level rose, they started to have sterile possession again, culminating in the game against Japan where Luis Henrique’s players made 800 more passes than their opponents, only to lose 2-1.
It should also be noted that this is the second time the two teams are facing each other. The first time was in 2018, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Morocco vs Spain: No surprises in the starting XI
There will be no surprise in both coaches’ starting 11. The two coaches are surely happy with the performance of their players, which allowed them to qualify for the round of 16.
Keys to the game: Morocco’s attack on fire!
The Moroccan team is very well equipped with Achraf Hakimi, who has been a real threat to defences since the beginning of the competition, but also Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech who are doing damage in attack during this World Cup. In midfield, too, the Moroccans have a fine line of three, led by Sofyan Amrabat, whose role will be to annihilate the Spanish midfield. Their goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou, also brings calm to his team. On paper, this team can beat Spain!
Spain’s squad is also packed, however the lack of a real number 9 could hurt the team. Even if Luis Henrique seems to want to put Alvaro Morata in the starting eleven, the Atletico Madrid player is not very good at club level. In midfield, Spain have two youngsters, with Gavi and Pedri, but also an older player to give them confidence, Sergio Busquets. Their defence seems rather weak, with Rodri not playing in the same position as he does with his club, their right-back, Azplicueta lacks speed. Overall, Spain’s style of play seems outdated, Luis Henrique wants to continue to implement the possession game that made Spain great from 2008 to 2012. Unfortunately, the players in his squad are not the same as during Spain’s golden era.
On paper, Spain will be the favourites for this fixture, but the Moroccans could pull off a surprise. We see them opening the score in the first half before scoring again in the last 45 minutes to lead at half-time and win in the end. However, we think that the Spanish will also score, and it will probably be through Alvaro Morata. Therefore, we expect a match with at least 3 goals.