This will be a round of 16 tie between two great sides who both gave us exciting action in the group stages. Morocco take on Spain as they aim to do yet another giant-killing as seen by their heroics against Belgium. Spain, on the other hand, fell short at the last hurdle to win their group as they lost their last game against Japan. Starting off the campaign with a 7-0 win might have been a factor that the Spanish squad relied upon to see them through.
Looking at the FIFA rankings, Morocco is ranked in 22nd place, whilst Spain is in seventh place and looking to push themselves into the late stages of the tournament.
Walid Regragui’s side has been one of the surprise teams thus far, making it out of the group by toppling Belgium. Hakim Ziyech’s reintroduction to the team has boosted morale and their ambitions as he manages to trouble defences with his trickery and dangerous crosses. These two sides have met once before in the FIFA World Cup stage and the game finished in a 2-2 draw.
Another factor is the compact nature of the back line serving as the spine of the team on which they build up their play. Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Noussair Mazraoui and Achraf Hakimi have had a brilliant tournament thus far and will fancy their chances against their Spanish counterparts.
At AI Rayyan, the Spanish side needs to be clinical when faced with goal-scoring opportunities, as they were made to pay for their chances. Spain fell to a defeat against Japan after stringing a total of over 1,000 successful passes, becoming only the second team to do so in a World Cup match. Criticism can be made that the midfield and the back line were not positive enough to take risks to push their team up the field but instead remained passive in their passing patterns.
The early goal for Alvaro Morata relaxed a bit of the tension for the Spanish team, but two goals in quick succession turned the game on its head, and Spain was unable to find top gear. Luiz Enrique was visibly displeased with the performance in the second half, and the substitutions did not impact the game as much as he would have liked. Spain is likely to play out their usual game with a lot of possession and try to pick passes through the Moroccan defence.
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