A victory against the old colonial power: Morocco completely freaks out after defeating Spain. Reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup is as historic as it is dramatic. The king congratulates - and many secondary theaters of war fuel the epic duel.
What cheek. Achraf Hakimi takes what could be the all-important penalty that could propel his Moroccan side to a World Cup quarter-finals for the first time. Education City Stadium is crackling. Really everyone in the stands has pulled out a cell phone and wants to be part of history. And what does the ex-Dortmunder do? He casually chips the ball into the net with a Panenka penalty to win 3-0.
After that there is no holding back. In the stands, Moroccan fans are as if struck by lightning and hug each other. In front of the stadium there is ecstasy and partly disbelieving faces. Then the drums started and after 120 minutes of partying in the arena, the football-mad Moroccans just kept singing and dancing. Celebrate their heroes around goalkeeper Bono, who saves two penalties.
"My players were incredible, with their energy, with their determination against one of the best teams in the world, maybe even the best," said Moroccan national coach Walid Regragui. "We fought, we are a family, a united team. The players followed my instructions to the last letter. I don't know how far it can go."
Beaten the great Spaniards. The 2010 World Champion, 2008 and 2012 European Champion. And with what energy and tactical discipline, with what a fight. With what drama. The fans will witness the most heated and euphoric game of this tournament - and the biggest surprise yet. As the only remaining Arab and African team in the tournament, this win means so much to entire regions, even continents.
Spain versus Morocco is not a normal duel anyway. The history of the two countries, which are geographically so close to each other (14 kilometers at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar), is rich in conflicts. As early as the 8th century, Muslim troops crossed over to the Iberian Peninsula and took large parts of what is now Spain. After centuries of wars and peace treaties, the Spanish-Moroccan War broke out in 1859-1860 and during the period of colonialism Spain and France divided Morocco between themselves.
Right from the start it is crystal clear who owns the stadium. 20 minutes before kick-off, when the Spanish stoker called on the Furia Roja fans to cheer, he received a resounding whistle in response. Possibly also to show the old colonial power. As the ball rolls, Spanish possession continues with loud whistles. The Moroccan fans have both curves under control, complete with several big drums and a capo. 120 minutes they turn the stadium into a cauldron. You have to keep your fingers crossed for the Moroccans for this atmosphere alone, the departure of the fans would be a loss for the tournament.
In the first half Spain initially controlled the ball, Morocco intervened hard and with a lot of fire and relied on fast counterattacks in a deep 4-5-1. The defensively aggressive, technically strong and tactically excellent North Africans are very difficult to crack, La Furia Roja just can't get through.
20 minutes are up, Spain has 67 percent possession of the ball, but not a single goal chance. Then Morocco will be stronger. Again and again it's world-class dribbles from Sofiane Boufal, who does what he wants with Marcos Llorente on the left wing. The fans love him, celebrating every touch he touches in hopes of the next feint and another little dance. The 175 centimeter small power dribbler initiated his team's best chances in the first half, Morocco could have taken the lead.
Suddenly goalkeeper Bono had to deflect a shot from Gavi onto the crossbar in the 24th minute, but Sofyan Amrabat cleared the follow-up shot, which would not have counted for offside. What a game the sweeper is doing with the number 4 on his jersey. He's clearly the most important man on the pitch. From all 22 players. Like a warrior, he throws himself into every fray, fights for 120 minutes until cramps plague him at the end. Almost all waves of attacks end up in the legs of the Fiorentina man. If he wins the ball, he also has the necessary overview to cleverly initiate the counterattack. Amrabat symbolizes the inspiring appearance of the Atlas lions.
Today, the two nations Spain and Morocco are business partners and they also share efforts to combat illegal migration. The latter point brings additional explosiveness to this Mediterranean duel. Because one of the main routes of refugees to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 29,000 deaths have been registered in migration to Europe since 2014, leads via Morocco to Spain with the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. The EU and Spain are funding the North African country for an increasingly tough crackdown on migrants in cooperation with EU border protection agency Frontex. In June, the killing by Moroccan security forces of at least 23 African migrants (at least 76 others were injured) attempting to cross the Melilla-Morocco border sparked an outcry. In the first eight months of this year alone, the Moroccan authorities are said to have arrested 56,000 migrants.
Given these tragedies and numbers, the drama in Doha that unfolds in the second half and extra time is really just a trifle. But after the game initially flattened out significantly, the tension flared up again shortly before the end of regular time. First Nico Williams sent Alvaro Morata perfectly in the 82nd minute, but his shot from a tight angle rushed wide of the far post. Four minutes later, Hakimi has a lot of space, but Abdelhamid Sabiri converts his strong cross into a turning shot at the end. Spain then have their last chance in the person of Dani Olmo, but keeper Bono reacts brilliantly from his free-kick.
Renewal. The Moroccan fans celebrate while tearing their hair and biting their fingernails. The sensation is in the air, everyone in the stadium feels it. In extra time, La Furia Roja runs at first, but the yield is still lacking. Sometimes it's getting wild now. The greatest chance of the game came in the 104th minute when Walid Cheddira broke through after a great combination, but failed alone in front of Simon at the strong keeper. An outcry goes through the stadium.
It is clear that the game will now be decided by sheer will. Who would like it more, the round of 16 victory? In the 123rd minute, Rodrigo sent a cross to the goal one last time and Pablo Sarabia, who had been substituted just four minutes before, got in the way and deflected the ball onto the goal – but it missed the far post! Incomprehensible.
But then the whistle follows. The dramatic game goes into the final act: there is a penalty shootout. Eminem runs through the speakers: "If you had one shot, one opportunity..." In the end, the great soccer nation of Spain, of all people, didn't use a single one of these opportunities from the point. Coach Luis Enrique had announced that he had let his players take "1000 penalties". But his professionals from glorious clubs all forgive miserably. Goalkeeper Bono, on the other hand, surpasses himself and becomes the hero of the evening.
The stadium explodes with every Spanish miss - even more than with the goals of their own shooters. Karimi finishes with the Panenka penalty. Hours later, people are still dancing in the underground stations and at the souq market in Doha, and in the North African country itself, as well as in Barcelona, Madrid and Alicante, thousands are pouring onto the streets, hoisting flags and forming honking motorcades.
A victory over the former colonial power is special. The news site "Ana al-Khabar" writes of an "unprecedented performance at the expense of the Spaniards". Even King Mohammed VI. congratulates the team on their victory - while refugees in Morocco are dreaming of asylum in Spain that night and are afraid of the journey there.