from HUSSEIN HUSSAIN in Doha, Qatar
DOHA, (CAJ News) – MOROCCO are banking on form and history to qualify for the World Cup quarterfinals at the expense of Spain, whose only triumph at the tournament was achieved in Africa.
The only side from the African continent remaining at Qatar 2022, the Atlas Lions, and the 2010 champions will contest a Last 16 encounter at the Education City in the capital Doha on Tuesday.
Morocco, the continent’s “Last Man Standing”, are bidding to be the fourth African side to reach the quarterfinals, after Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010).
The North Africans, who have equaled the record of the Class of 1986 Mexico by reaching the second round, are fretting over the availability of right back Achraf Hakimi and midfielder Selim Amallah ahead of the clash with the La Roja.
Despite the Spanish’s pedigree at the World Cup, Walid Regragui’s Lions would be fancying their chances owing to the plausible result the last time the teams met at this tournament.
Morocco dominated that match, only to be denied victory by an injury time goal as the sides eventually drew 2-2.
The two neighbouring nations’ respective Group campaigns in Qatar ought to give the Atlas Lions some hope to upset the apple cart.
Morocco had one of the best outings at that stage, with two wins (against favourites Belgium and Canada) plus a draw with 2018 runners-up, Croatia.
They eventually topped Group F.
Spain opened their campaign with a bang, a 7-0 hammering of Costa Rica, but finished it with a whimper, a 2-1 loss to Japan. In between they secured a 1-1 draw against the fallen football Goliath, Germany.
Luis Enrique’s hot-and-cold side finished second behind Japan, in a group they were tipped to top.
Spain are a shadow of the side that its peak swatted opponents aside with a trademark “tiki taka” brand of the beautiful game.
Morocco meanwhile are also basking on the glory of an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Tuesday’s other encounter is an all-European contest between Portugal and Switzerland at the Lusail.
– CAJ News