The Atlas Lions stunned Luis Enrique"s side after a stalemate at the end of normal time to reach the last-eight of Qatar 2022.
Sevilla"s Yassine Bounou was the star of the shoot-out, saving Carlos Soler and captain, Sergio Busquet"s spotkicks with Ziyech converting the decisive fourth for his country.
Regragui"s side were disciplined, compact defensively and were able to lock up Alvaro Morata in Spain"s frontline, managing to absorb the pressure from the Spanish side for the entirety of 120 minutes plus added time.
Morroco employed a low press, looking to catch Spain on the counter with fast wingers like Ziyech. The Chelsea man did have to drop deeper into his half to support the right flank as the intensity of Spain"s attack made Morroco lie deep.
Lack of attempts
As expected, Spain stuck to a possessive game, a tradition they have been known for almost as long as anyone can remember. The defeat to Morroco draws certain similarities from their penalty shoot-out defeat to hosts, Russia also in the last-16, at the 2018 edition of the tournament.
Spain vs Russia 2018
In that game, Fernando Hierro"s Spain made a total of 1,114(1006 completed) passes almost four times the 290(191 completed) passes the Russians managed.
Spain dominated possession holding 78.97% of the ball.
Spain"s management may have changed but the same game strategy that has turned out to be a huge nemesis for the 2010 World Cup Champions still lingers on, one that played a factor in their defeat to The Atlas Lions.
The Spaniards dominated possession, holding 77%, more than three times the ball possession the underdogs managed. Contradicting their dominating play, Spain even though mustering 13 shots had only one of those on target while Morroco had six total and two on target.
It"s completely fine to hold more of the possession, it helps teams to dictate the tempo of the game and the play but while this is effective, teams also have to focus on finishing off attempts. On several occasions, the Spaniards tried to work the ball into the box.
As a matter of fact, their strategy was to drive the ball into the box where probably forwards like Morata and Asensio could finish off.
This didn"t work for a Morrocan side that had their area well guarded.
Spain could have well made some attempts from outside the box. As seen from Messi"s opener against Australia, a heavily guarded box, one with a lot of traffic, opens up real opportunities for taking shots. The goalkeeper"s visibility is reduced as there are players obstructing his line of sight and this helps in delaying reaction.
Spain"s shocking defeat to Morroco means the European side have not advanced have failed to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup tournament since 2010, when they lifted the trophy for the first time in the country"s history.
Morroco now turn their attention to the winners of the tie between Portugal and Switzerland. The North Africans" feat against La Roja means they are the fourth African country to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals since Cameroon(1990), Senegal(2002) and Ghana(2010) and will look to make the semis when their take on their opponents on Saturday.
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