25 June 2018

Africa: The Atlas Lions Roared, To the Consternation of the Red Fury

Photo: SABC screenshot
Morocco first goal vs Spain.
Blog

Cape Town — It's as if Morocco woke from a deep slumber, coming out fighting and roared like the lions they are...

This match saw the most exciting opening twenty minutes and really proves my belief that it doesn't matter how much ball possession you have – Spain had 73% and Morocco 27 % just 13 minutes into the game, it's what you do with that ball that counts!

Morocco has an attack that gave Portugal the sternest test thus far in the World Cup. This has once again been proven with their relentless onslaught on the Spanish side. In what was probably the most exciting, nail-biting moment of the game, confusion in the middle of the park saw Morocco's lucky number 13 player Khalid Boutahib break away with a clear run at goal to score, helping his team take a 1-0 lead in the 13 th minute.

Spain whose path to advancing the World Cup is clear but not straightforward as it waits to see where on the log they will end up – a result solely dependent on Portugal and Iran's game which is being played at the same time, and on how many goals Portugal will score.

In the 22 nd minute the Catalans breakthrough came with an Iniesta pass to Isco who put it at the back of the net! Score 1-1.

So far in the first half, Morocco got 4 yellow cards in ten minutes.

Nordin Amrabat (2) Karim Ahmadi (1) and Moubarak Boussoufa (1), while Spain's yellow cards included Sergio Ramos and Manuel da Costa.

Second Half

Another fast-paced start to the second half with an offside after Spain's Sergio Busquetts tried a through ball but Isco was caught offside.

I can tell you about goal attempts by Gerard Pique in the 56 th minute, goal attempts in the 59 th minute by Thiago Alcantara and in the same minute a foul by Nordin Amrabat that saw workhorse Andres Iniesta win a free kick.

Or I can mention a strategic substitute change in the 63 rd minute that would assist Morocco with a goal when Faycal Fajr replaced Younes Belhanda...

Morocco's attempt at goal stopped by David Silva and Isco in the 67 th minute and in the 68 th minute substitute Fajr commits a foul.

Or the 69 th minute which saw Thiago Alcantara assisted by Diego Costa missing an attempt at goal with the ball going too high.

Or when Morocco substitute Youssef en Nesyri replaced Khalib Boutaib...

I can speak about several fouls in the 72 nd minute that saw a free kick awarded to Spain with Isco taking it or another Spain substituting Thiago Alcantara with Marco Asensio

I can also speak about the 76 th minute when Morocco's Nordin Amarabat won a free kick on the right wing or even more fouls by Spain's Isco in the 76 th minute and Moroccos's Karim el Ahmad or I can speak about fouls and free kicks and goal attempts in the 78 th , 79 th or 80 th  

BUT I just have to mention the 81 st

In the 81 st minute - Goal Sweet Goal for Youssef En-Nesyri assisted by Faycal Fajr with a cross, following a corner. What a brilliant substitution decision taken by coach Herve Renard – timing in this case was everything!

Then just as fouls and yellow cards were still being handed out at a blistering pace, the game took a turn again in the 91 st minute  with a sensational but controversial goal this time from Spain's Lago Aspas with a shot to the bottom of the net, assisted by Daniel Carvajal.

At the 94 th minute, the referee blew time on the game and everyone is definitely asking the same question.

Why, oh why could Morocco not have played like this at the beginning? What a different result it could have been!

I think that this match has given Morocco the momentum to succeed in the next World Cup. They will definitely not have to wait another 20 years.

In the meantime, Morocco is saying that Spain's equaliser was offside but the VAR system, Morocco's nemesis, ruled otherwise…

Final score: 2-2

So Spain goes through to the next round on goal difference and tops Group B, after Portugal only managed a 1-1 draw with Iran, who if they had won, would have knocked Portugal out of the competition.

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