Morocco vs Spain: Do Not Expect Easy Roja Win

Written by: Greg Lea
Updated December 5, 2022
5 min read
  • Spain progressed to the knockout phase as runners-up rather than winners of Group E

  • Morocco sprang a surprise by finishing on top of Group F ahead of Belgium and Croatia

  • Spain may have to work hard for victory after going two games without a win

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Morocco vs Spain Pick

La Roja will not have everything their own way against Morocco, but we fancy them to get the job done in the end.

Back Spain to win to nil on Tuesday.  (+125)

Morocco vs Spain Predictions

Morocco vs Spain Predictions

Spain Made to Feel Less Comfortable Since Costa Rica Rout

Spain got their World Cup 2022 campaign off to a flying start. A 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica was their biggest-ever victory in this competition, as la Roja blew the CONCACAF representatives away on matchday one. After the demolition, the best online sportsbooks cut their odds on Spain lifting the trophy this winter.

But la Roja faltered a little after that. In fairness, a 1-1 draw with Germany was a good result for Luis Enrique’s side, who played well for most of the encounter. But Spain let their opponents back into the game late on, and Germany could easily have equalized even before Niclas Fullkrug powered a shot home in the 83rd minute.

If the draw with the Nationalelf was a decent result, a 2-1 defeat by Japan certainly was not. It was also a match that featured some worrying signs for Spain. 

Luis Enrique’s charges were in cruise control in the opening 45 minutes, taking the lead through Alvaro Morata and then continuing to pin Japan back in their own half.

The problems started early in the second period. Japan scored two quick-fire goals, after which Spain barely threatened an equalizer until the closing stages. 

Perhaps they were not going at full pelt because they knew a 2-1 win for the Japanese would send both teams through and knock Germany out. But Spain’s response to their first moment of adversity in Qatar was not especially convincing.

Indeed, that is the biggest question mark over this side. When they are leading and everything is going well, Spain look imperious. But their stylish soccer sometimes deserts them when they are put under pressure. That is something Morocco will look to take advantage of at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday.

Morocco Punch Above Weight to Land a Knockout Phase Berth

There are surprise packages at every World Cup and Morocco have been one of them this time around. Few anticipated the Atlas Lions progressing from Group F, never mind winning it. Yet with seven points from a possible nine, the undefeated Moroccans finished top ahead of Croatia, Belgium, and Canada.

Walid Regragui’s side began with a forgettable 0-0 draw against Croatia that did not exactly quicken the pulses of the neutrals. Yet there were positives for Morocco fans to take from a decent performance against the runners-up from four years ago.

Morocco were disciplined in their defensive shape. They did not press high up the pitch but were aggressive and tenacious when the ball got played into midfield. They mounted a number of direct attackers: not by hoofing the ball long and hoping for the best, but by playing quick, incisive passes through the pitch.

Next came one of Morocco’s greatest-ever results, a 2-0 victory over Belgium. It was fully deserved too: the Atlas Lions successfully contained their more celebrated opponents in the first hour, then came on strong with 30 minutes to go. 

The top spot was subsequently wrapped up with a 2-1 defeat to Canada on Thursday. That too was an impressive win, as Morocco successfully dealt with the pressure that comes from being favorites to triumph.

Morocco have only reached this stage of the World Cup once before. On that occasion, in 1986, they were edged out 1-0 by West Germany. Morocco will therefore be looking to make history on Tuesday by qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time ever.

Spain Will Be Pushed All the Way by Competitive Opponents

Spain are clear favorites to win the penultimate last-16 tie at World Cup 2022, but they will not have everything their own way here. Morocco will form a compact and narrow shape without the ball, while also looking to disrupt Spain’s passing rhythm in the center of the pitch.

It will be important that Morocco break forward sporadically to give Spain something to think about going the other way. They may do this through the attack-minded full-backs, Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui, or via Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal further forward.

Spain, for their part, will play their usual press-and-possess game. Pedri and Gavi will look to find pockets of space between the lines, away from the attention of Morocco’s prowling enforcer, Sofyan Amrabat. Morata will offer a threat in the penalty area, provided he gets the nod ahead of Marco Asensio.

Spain kept just one clean sheet in the group phase but they are still a tough team to score against, largely because they have so much of the ball. We fancy their chances of shutting out Morocco and registering a narrow victory to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since they won the World Cup in 2010.

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How to Watch Morocco vs Spain

  • Teams: Morocco vs Spain

  • Location: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar

  • Time: Tuesday 6 December 2022, 10:00 AM EST

  • How to Watch: Fox Sports, Telemundo, fuboTV

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Greg Lea

Soccer Betting Analyst

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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Politics
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