FIFA WC | Monday 11.30 PM: Morocco Look to Spoil Spain’s Party

A win for Spain would guarantee the 2010 World Champion advances to the knockout stage.

Updated24 Jun 2018, 10:24 PM IST
Football
3 min read

Morocco has lost both its matches at the World Cup and hasn't scored a goal. That doesn't mean Spain will have it easy against the North Africans.

The Atlas Lions will be desperate to salvage something from what has been a miserable World Cup for Morocco when they take on Spain in Kaliningrad on Monday in their final Group B match.

Morocco coach Herve Renard says "We will finish against Spain and we will try to finish with flying colors."

A win for Spain would guarantee the 2010 World Champion advances to the knockout stage. A draw would be enough if Portugal beats Iran in the other Group B match.

Spain's new coach Fernando Hierro is wary of the Moroccan threat.

Anybody who thinks it’s going to be very easy to score and win by a landslide, especially during this first stage is wrong. 
Fernando Hierro, Spain Coach.

So don't expect many changes from Spain in Hierro's third match in charge since his sudden appointment following the dismissal of Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup.

"We are happy with him and we are learning a lot," Jordi Alba said of the new coach. "The idea remains the same as before with Lopetegui. The team's essence remains the same."

Moroccan team  during their training session on the eve of their Group B match against Spain at the Lokomotiv stadium in Kaliningrad on Sunday.
Moroccan team during their training session on the eve of their Group B match against Spain at the Lokomotiv stadium in Kaliningrad on Sunday.
(Photo: Reuters)

Morocco's desire to leave Russia on a high note may even play into Spain's hands if they press forward and leave more space at the back.

If they do, Spain has the man to capitalise: Diego Costa already has three goals in two matches in Russia, one fewer than tournament top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

But even if Morocco is more attack-minded, the Atletico Madrid striker will still have to break through a tough defense that has only conceded a single goal in each of its defeats so far. With Mehdi Benatia, a key member of the miserly Juventus backline in the Italian Serie A, anchoring its defense, Morocco kept six clean sheets in World Cup qualifiers.

Spanish players during a training session  in Krasnodar, Russia on the eve of their Group B match against Morocco on Monday.
Spanish players during a training session in Krasnodar, Russia on the eve of their Group B match against Morocco on Monday.
(Photo: AP)

Although Morocco has lurched from one problem to another in Russia. Even before the tournament started, the country lost its bid to host the 2026 World Cup when FIFA chose alternative option from North America.

The team's medical staff came in for criticism for its handling of the head injury Noureddine Amrabat sustained in the opening loss to Iran. Then Amrabat earned his team a FIFA rebuke for criticizing the referee in its 1-0 loss to Portugal.

Morocco, playing at its first World Cup in 20 years, has a right to feel unlucky — it outplayed both Portugal and Iran in stretches of both those matches, but failed to find the net. Against Iran, an injury-time own goal was the only score.

The Atlas Lions will be hoping their luck finally changes against Spain.

Spain drew 3-3 against Portugal in their first Group B match on 15 June. 
Spain drew 3-3 against Portugal in their first Group B match on 15 June. 
(Photo: Reuters)

After two matches each in Russia, Iberian Peninsula neighbors Spain and Portugal both have four points in Group B with a win and a draw. Both teams have scored four goals (including three against one another) and conceded three. Get ready to consult FIFA's tie-breaker rulebook if they both draw their final matches.

"The last matches are going to be complicated for everybody," Hierro said.

A slip by Spain or Portugal on Monday could still cost them a spot in the knock-out stage and allow Iran into the round of 16.

(For complete FIFA World Cup 2018 coverage, click here to visit our special WC page.)

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Published: 24 Jun 2018, 07:36 PM IST

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