2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Russie 2018

Spain top group after thrilling finale

Spain’s objective at the start of the match was simple: to stay top of Group B. Though already eliminated, Morocco had an objective of their own: to ensure they did not leave the competition goalless.

Morocco were the first to fulfil their aim, as forward Khalid Boutaib capitalised on a misunderstanding between Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta to sprint clear and slip the ball under David De Gea with 14 minutes on the clock. Clearly stung, *La Roja* took just five minutes to reply, with Iniesta slipping the perfect pass to Isco, who fired home from close range.

That was not the cue for the Spanish machine to click into gear, however, as the Atlas Lions continued to make life difficult for them. Boutaib scampered clear once more only to be denied by De Gea, and though Diego Costa was inches away from converting another pinpoint Iniesta pass before the break, the Moroccans went close yet again when Nourredine Amrabat struck the angle of post and bar with a fizzing drive ten minutes into the second half. 

Spain’s response to that scare was to keep the ball and bump up their possession stats, though it was the Africans who struck next when Youssef En Nesyri powered home a header from a corner with nine minutes remaining. But just when Morocco though the points were theirs, Iago Aspas scored with a fine back-heeled flick in stoppage time as Spain ultimately made first place theirs.

Team reporter analysis

Antia Andre, with Spain [Follow on Twitter]
In their final group match Spain had to settle for a share of the points, secured in dramatic fashion by Aspas’ injury-time strike. The Spanish had earlier passed up several chances to take the lead in a match lit up by some sparkling interplay between Isco and Iniesta. Defensive errors ultimately cost La Roja the win but not top spot in the section.

Zineb El Houari, with Morocco [Follow on Twitter]
Morocco departed on a high. Already eliminated on their fifth World Cup appearance, the north Africans restored their pride in style by holding the 2010 world champions in check thanks to goals from Boutaib and En Nesyri, who plays his club football for Malaga. Though Spain pressed high at the start of the match, Herve Renard’s side – captained by Mbarek Boussoufa – did not give an inch. Fighting all the way to the end, Morocco went some way to making up for their early exit with a warrior-like display.

Budweiser​ Man of the Match
The scorer of Spain’s first equaliser, Isco oozed class throughout. His sudden bursts of acceleration, dribbling and precise passing made him his side’s most dangerous player.

The stat
23 - Though Spain left it late, tonight’s draw extends their unbeaten run to 23 matches, a sequence that no other team on the planet can match.

What’s next
Russia-Spain, Round of 16, Moscow, 1 July

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