Achraf Hakimi’s nerveless ‘Panenka’ penalty seals stunning World Cup shock as Morocco beats Spain in shootout to reach quarterfinals

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CNN

Morocco continued their stunning run in Qatar 2022, beating Spain on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in its history.

Spain missed all three penalties as Moroccan goalkeeper Bono made himself the hero of the shootout, saving tries from Sergio Busquets and Carlos Soler, while Pablo Sarabia hit the post.

Born in Spain, Achraf Hakimi buried the winning penalty with the boldest of Panenkas and gently tapped the ball into the center of the goal to send the thousands of Moroccan fans in the Education Stadium to dreamland.

The defeat for Spain continues its miserable World Cup record since winning the trophy in 2010, with LaRoja racking up just three tournament victories – against Australia, Iran and Costa Rica – in the three editions since that victory.

Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Spain coach Luis Enrique said he had given his players “homework” a year ago to practice 1,000 penalties at their clubs, but as the heat of the moment arrived, Busquets, Soler and Sarabia burst under the pressure.

Not so Hakimi, whose unnerving quip caused wild scenes on the pitch as the Paris Saint-Germain full-back was harassed by his teammate and coaching staff, who were celebrating Morocco becoming the first Arab country to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

This Moroccan team was a revelation this tournament, defending bravely and attacking with verve. Fans of the North African national team will be rightfully confident of getting past Switzerland or Portugal in the next round to make even more history.

Spain produced perhaps the most eye-catching result of the first round, dismantling Costa Rica 7-0 in a supremely dominant performance to get all other World Cup contenders to notice.

In the next two games, however, Spain stuttered to a draw against Germany and then was shocked by Japan, who eventually qualified for the round of 16 in second place behind the Samurai Blue.

Morocco, then, could be forgiven for feeling a little saddened by Spain’s draw in the knockout stage after comfortably qualifying top of its group.

But the Atlas Lions were without a doubt among the most impressive players in Qatar so far and will rightly have felt no fear of this clash against LaRoja.

Morocco’s head coach Walid Regragui had told his players to “aim for the sky” before this game and they started the game with an intensity that showed they would not be overwhelmed by the occasion or their World Cup winning opponent.

Spain has continued its abysmal World Cup record since lifting the trophy in 2010.

Red Moroccan shirts shot into tackles within 30 seconds, so that the Spanish players never had a moment’s rest on the ball.

Morocco’s fans – who were among the best in Qatar, making every game feel almost like a home game – reacted vociferously, roaring at every Moroccan tackle and booing every time Spain had possession.

Morocco also looked the most dangerous team in the first 20 minutes, putting Spain’s defense in trouble at the break, with one of those counterattacks forcing Busquets to bring down Sofiane Boufal.

Hakimi, who was born in Spain to Moroccan parents, flashed the ensuing free kick over Unai Simón’s crossbar.

Perhaps Morocco’s early dominance may have made the players overconfident as an accidental pass out from behind resulted in a glorious chance in front of goal for Gavi, but goalkeeper Bono recovered brilliantly to tap the striker’s effort onto the crossbar unaware that the the linesman’s flag was gone. up for offside.

It was a first warning to Morocco that any lack of concentration could be punished at any time by Spain’s talented front line.

Achraf Hakimi was harassed by his teammates after his winning penalty kick.

Barely three minutes before the break, Morocco had the best chance of the game so far.

Made by wide man Boufal, who had an impressive game, his cross to the far post was headed over the crossbar by Naif Aguerd, who really should have got his effort at least on target.

As brilliant as Morocco had been in the first half and finished the first 45 minutes with a swing, Spain had been so disappointing. As so often at this World Cup, Enrique’s side had had considerably more possession, but most of it was difficult passing 10 yards from the Moroccan penalty area.

There would probably have been a few choice words from Enrique to his players at half-time, which came out with considerably more intensity in the second period.

Morocco barely had any contact with the ball in the attacking half, as the light blue Spanish shirts swarmed their opponents every time they lost possession.

While Morocco’s defense certainly looked more tense – Aguerd at one point made a brilliant last-ditch tackle on Álvaro Morata in the penalty area – for all of Spain’s possession, which reached a whopping 85% in the second half, Bono in the Moroccan goal had yet to be seriously troubled.

It wasn’t until the 81st minute that Spain conjured up their first chance, as substitute Nico Williams’ through ball cleared Morata, but the striker’s flashing shot in front of goal was pushed away by Bono’s toe and there was no other Spanish player near the Moroccan target.

It felt increasingly inevitable that this game was heading into extra time, but Spain had one last chance to win. Dani Olmo’s batted cross into the penalty area missed Williams’ toe by millimeters and Bono was able to hit the ball back for a corner.

In what was a predictably restrained first half of extra time, Morocco had a glorious chance to take the lead, but substitute Walid Cheddira fired his effort straight at Simón after being put through one-on-one by Hakim Ziyech.

Morocco's players celebrate their historic triumph.

Strangely, Spain finally seemed to wake up in the dying moments of extra time, pressuring the Moroccan goal until Rodri’s brilliant cross found Sarabia unmarked in the penalty area, but the Paris Saint-Germain striker hit his volley against the far post .

Sarabia regretted that miss as his night went from bad to worse, scoring his penalty in the shootout against the post with Spain’s first try.

It was a sign of things to come for Spain, with Busquets and Soler also failing to score.

Despite Badr Banoune missing his penalty kick for Morocco, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Ziyech and then the coolest of them all, Hakimi buried their penalties to reserve their place in Moroccan football folklore.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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