Spain’s attempt to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 2010 ended in disappointment and failure on Tuesday, when they were defeated in a penalty shoot-out by Morocco.
After 120 minutes of goalless dominance in which they racked up 1019 passes, Luis Enrique’s side capitulated in the shootout, with Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler, and Sergio Busquets all missing, the latter two efforts saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
It gave Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi the opportunity to win it, which he did with a Panenka to send Morocco into the last eight for the first time.
Morocco and their boisterous supporters celebrated wildly, leaving Spain perplexed and, no doubt, questioning their strategy.
Over the course of 120 minutes, Luis Enrique’s men had nearly 77% possession but only one shot on target.
After 26 minutes, Jordi Alba lifted a ball over the top for Marco Asensio, but the Real Madrid midfielder, who was playing in a false nine position, lashed his shot into the side-netting.
When Morocco did advance, they did so deliberately, with left winger Sofiane Boufal causing Marcos Llorente, their temporary right-back, a miserable evening.
The best opportunity for Morocco in the first half was created by Boufal, who outran Llorente and crossed for Nayef Aguerd, who could only head the ball over from six yards away.
Similar play continued in the second half, though Morocco’s counterattacks were less common.
Luis Enrique had had enough and brought on Alvaro Morata and Nico Williams to inject some life into his attack, and it almost paid off with eight minutes remaining, Williams playing in Morata, whose cross shot flashed across the face of goal.
Bounou was finally called into action with almost the last kick of normal time, Dani Olmo’s inswinging free kick missing everyone and forcing the Moroccan goalkeeper to dive to his left and palm away to safety.
Unai Simon, Bouou’s counterpart, had been a virtual spectator for the majority of the evening before being called into action after 103 minutes, making a smart stop with his feet to keep out Walid Cheddira’s low shot after neat work from Azzedine Ounahi.
The rest of extra time was uneventful until Sarabia nearly won it with the final kick, his volley hitting the outside of the post.
His night was about to get even worse when Bounou took center stage.
Spain go home while Morocco await the winners of the final round-of-16 tie between Switzerland and Portugal.