Spain deservedly beaten by Morocco as another early tournament exit raises questions of their identity

More than 1,000 passes and just one shot on the right track.

On a dismal, deflating evening for Spain, an evening which noticed the 2010 winners fail to achieve the quarter-finals of a 3rd consecutive World Cup, that was the statistic that greatest summed all of it up.

Spain promised loads however, finally, and never for the primary time lately, they delivered little, their destiny sealed, once more, on penalties. Three taken; three missed. Morocco, excellent all through, deserved their win. Spain acquired what they deserved too.

The points are acquainted ones. The Spain aspect that so dominated the worldwide recreation between 2008 and 2012, profitable three consecutive main tournaments, had been profitable as a result of they knew how you can make their possession depend. Not this one.

  • Morocco 0-0 Spain (3-0 on pens) – Match report
  • How the groups lined up | Match stats
  • World Cup schedule and quarter-final draw

Spain gamers present their disappointment after the defeat

They exit the tournament having had 77 per cent possession however fewer photographs than South Korea and Senegal. They scored 9 objectives however seven of them got here within the opening recreation towards Costa Rica.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was ridiculed for saying there wasn’t sufficient firepower within the crew within the build-up to that recreation at Al Thumama Stadium however ultimately he has been confirmed proper.

That, although, isn’t all Spain lacked.

Also See:

  • Morocco 0-0 Spain (3-0 on pens) – Match report

  • World Cup schedule and permutations

  • World Cup group tables

  • Latest World Cup information

For all of the technical high quality within the crew, for all of the youthful brilliance of Gavi and Pedri forward of Sergio Busquets in midfield, they struggled to create possibilities as nicely as end them.

Against Germany, Japan and Morocco, they registered a mixed whole of solely 2.59 anticipated objectives. Across all 4 video games, in over seven hours of soccer, no Spain participant created greater than 5 possibilities.

Alvaro Morata isn’t the reply up entrance, however he does at the very least end the tournament having scored three objectives. Their much-maligned striker can fairly argue he did his half. Others can not.

Not that Pedri and Gavi ought to be held accountable. The scrutiny is healthier directed at supervisor Luis Enrique, who will certainly really feel he put an excessive amount of stress on the younger pair’s shoulders.

He had tried to ease that stress on the eve of the sport. “Nervous about tomorrow, but why?” he stated with a shrug, responding to a supporter’s remark over streaming platform Twitch, as he had all through the tournament.

He was desirous to venture calm – “we are relaxed, confident, and excited for the game to start,” he added – but it surely didn’t transmit to his gamers. Not after what occurred towards Japan – and never with all of the scars they nonetheless bear from earlier tournaments.

Against Morocco, the doubts manifested in a scarcity of composure which may very well be seen in Jordi Alba passing the ball straight out of play; in Busquets and Rodri, normally faultless in possession, taking turns to offer it away in their personal half within the house of a minute.

Morocco's Walid Cheddira had possibilities to win the sport earlier than it went to penalties

Morocco deserve big credit score for the best way they unsettled them, of course. They knew Spain’s vulnerabilities and executed their gameplan brilliantly – albeit with out scoring the winner their efficiency deserved earlier than the shootout.

But finally Spain should take a look at themselves.

The entrance pages of the nation’s sports activities newspapers had carried comparable messages on the morning of the sport. “Play and get through,” learn that of AS. “Attack!” learn Sport’s.

All of them had been reflecting Luis Enrique’s feedback that Spain would keep true to their philosophy, regardless of the defeat to Japan in their ultimate group recreation. “The national team swears allegiance to its style,” added AS. “It is my idea,” stated Luis Enrique, “and it is what has got us here.”

In the tip, although, that devotion to their means of play, to monopolising possession and looking for to suffocate opponents slowly, was made to look extra like a hindrance than a badge of honour.

Against Morocco, as they shuttled the ball from one aspect of the pitch to the opposite and their opponents sat again and waited to spring ahead on the break, it was clear Spain had been crying out for one thing totally different.

Luis Enrique consoles Sergio Busquets after the sport

In truth, it was solely after the introduction of Nico Williams within the seventy fifth minute that they lastly started to threaten, the 20-year-old’s directness, his willingness to take defenders on, bringing the factor of unpredictability they’d sorely lacked.

By then, although, it was too late.

Morocco, emboldened by all that had gone earlier than, by no means actually regarded like letting the sport slip and will have received it with out the necessity for penalties had substitute Walid Cheddira been extra scientific.

Luis Enrique had spoken of asking his gamers to take “1,000 penalties” in preparation for the tournament however by the time the shootout arrived, all perception had been misplaced.

Spain, beaten on penalties by Italy eventually yr’s Euros, suffered the identical destiny as Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and, lastly, Busquets, in what is likely to be his ultimate look, had been all denied.

As Morocco started their celebrations, Spain had been left nursing their wounds once more. Another tournament which promised a lot however delivered little. And an identity disaster which rumbles on.

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