FIFA World Cup: Morocco aims to spring surprise on single-minded Spain in Round of 16 clash

The penchant to play from the back has already cost Luis Enrique and Spain dear in this World Cup.

Published : Dec 05, 2022 20:49 IST , Doha

Spain coach Luis Enrique in conversation with Koke.
Spain coach Luis Enrique in conversation with Koke. | Photo Credit: AFP

Spain coach Luis Enrique in conversation with Koke. | Photo Credit: AFP

Luis Enrique is the coolest coach in town with his Guardiola-like high-fashion look of chinos and full-sleeve round-neck tees in solid colours. He cycled in the Spanish mountains while announcing his World Cup squad and runs a Twitch vlog alongside his coaching duties. But Enrique is also single-minded, his operating style the most important, the results sometimes become secondary as the Spanish coach nitpicks about the system his team should play. 

“Spain must do what it proposes in each game. We have a very clear idea; we are not going to change it throughout the championship. although that does not mean that we always have to dominate,” the former Barcelona coach reiterated his stance in the pre-game media interaction. 

The penchant to play from the back has already cost him dear, goalkeeper Unai Simon slipping in an own goal at the EURO against Croatia and was again at fault for Japan’s opening goal in the 2-1 loss. Morocco with its speedy full-back pairing of Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui will look to exploit this tendency and press the Spanish ‘keeper and the defence hard to win the early balls in the opposition half. 

Spain’s worry might be compounded further if the experienced Cesar Azpilicueta misses out because of a calf injury but Dani Carvajal can be an able deputy at right-back. Dani Olmo also was absent from the training session, but Enrique will surely recall Ferran Torres and Jordi Alba to the starting XI after the duo sat out the Japan game. Alvaro Morata with three goals in three games will feel confident of retaining his place and give Spain a sturdier goal-scoring threat against Morocco, which has conceded just once in its three games. 

“Each match is a final for us, and we will create a surprise against Spain,” Morocco manager Walid Regragui said in his pre-match press conference. “Spain has the experience that we don’t have in the World Cup. It’s a game we haven’t played in 36 years. We can go down in history. It’s worth giving the maximum and having no regrets. It’s the most important game in our history.” 

Enrique, despite the array of talents in his squad, acknowledged Morocco’s well-worked defence won’t be easy to crack. His philosophy for the game, however, remains simple. “The objective from the beginning is to play seven games. I buy the complete package both winning and losing. Football is a very complex sport. If you lose for whatever reason... well, we will congratulate the opponent himself and nothing happens,” he said. 

Spain enjoyed 82 per cent possession in the 7-0 win over Costa Rica and 83 per cent in the loss to Japan but has won just 13 corners in its three group games, showcasing its reluctance to play long balls in the opposition box. Morocco, as well, would be happy to cede possession and wait for the Spanish to make mistakes. 

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