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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Atlas Lions knock out La Roja 3-0 on penalties to reach quarter finals

Morocco advanced to the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup (WC) for the first time after defeating Spain 3-0 in a thrilling penalty shootout. Spain was sensationally eliminated from the tournament once more in the last 16 after losing the shootout.

Although Luis Enrique's team dominated possession early on, they were unable to trouble Bono. Achraf Hakimi's free kick was actually the lone significant opportunity of the first 25 minutes, as it harmlessly went over the crossbar. However, after some sloppy defending, Gavi and Dani Olmo were given two chances in rapid succession, making Walid Regragui's team sweat, but their faces were saved by the assistant referee's flag.

However, Morocco was more than capable of competing, and Unai Simón was compelled to make a save to his right, down low, to stop Noussair Mazraoui's powerful shot. The Atlas Lions put on a strong first-half display, with Sofiane Boufal working his trickery down the left wing and finding Nayef Aguerd, whose header went over the crossbar.

Spain had the fewest shots attempted in a first half of a World Cup game this century with only one in the first 45 minutes. After the interval, they kept having trouble in the final third as Olmo's erratic set piece was easily saved by Bono. Just past the hour mark, Enrique responded by substituting Gavi and Marco Asensio for Alvaro Morata and Carlos Soler as La Roja continued to pass the ball around with ease but lacked the elusive lethal touch.

At the very last moment, Olmo had an opportunity to secure the victory, but Bono once more denied him by parrying away his free kick, ensuring that there would be another 30 minutes of play at Education City Stadium. After the break, Sofyan Amrabat gave Regragui's team a rare opportunity to score by putting Walid Cheddira through on goal. However, Aymeric Laporte intercepted him, and Pablo Sarabia's last-second attempt hit the post, setting up penalties.

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