Spain reach the Round of 16
Spain have won the long-distance duel with Portugal for Group B after a nail-biting match and are calling on hosts Russia in the round of 16. After an extremely hard day’s work and a late goal from Iago Aspas (90.+1), a 2-2 (1:1) against the Moroccans in Kalinigrad was enough for the 2010 World Champion. The Spanish escaped a duel with the secret favourite Uruguay.
Khalid Boutaib took the 14th minute lead for the bravely fighting Africans. Isco (19th) managed a quick equaliser in Kaliningrad, but the favourite had a hard time and even had to accept the 1:2 by Youssef En Nesyri (81st). After the match, however, the Spaniards were happy to have won the group because Portugal did not get past Iran 1-1 – and the fact that they escaped an embarrassing first-round loss such as that in Brazil four years ago.
Andres Iniesta and Co. started as usual powerful and with a lot of ball possession, but they quickly experienced a rude awakening. After a misunderstanding between Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos at the centre circle, Boutaib grabbed the ball, ran to David de Gea alone and hit the goal through the legs of the Spanish keeper. It was the fourth shot in the tournament at de Geas Kasten – and the fourth goal.
Spain reacted with angry attacks and was quickly successful. After fine preparatory work by Iniesta, Isco shot the ball from five meters almost angrily under the crossbar.
But those who thought that the equaliser was the start of a leisurely walk for the Iberians were soon taught otherwise. Captain Ramos’ defence remained extremely vulnerable, in the 25th minute she was surprised by a quick throw into the Boutaib run and the 1-0 scorer had his second goal on foot. But de Gea parried, for the first time in Russia, brilliantly.
Morocco defended itself bravely, sometimes with borderline hardness. Mbark Boussoufa was the fourth Moroccan to receive a yellow card in the 31st minute.
Six minutes later, Sergio Busquets missed the Spaniards’ big chance to score 2-1, the Barcelona midfielder headed over the goal completely free-standing after a corner. Diego Costa were missing only centimetres to lead after Iniesta entered the match shortly before half-time whistle.
After the break, the same picture presented itself to the 33,973 spectators: Spain squeezed, Morocco remained dangerous – also due to carelessness of the Spaniards. In the 50th minute, Boussoufa almost benefited from voting problems between Ramos and De Gea. Five minutes later the Europeans were even more lucky: Noureddine Amrabat only hit the crossbar with a brilliant shot from the edge of the box.
The African fans in the stands had a wild farewell party, which did not stop even a spectacular rescue of Ghanem Saiss on the line after a header by Isco (62nd). It became even louder after the lead was scored again.