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Morocco stifle, eliminate Spain; Portugal brush aside Switzerland

The quarterfinals are set

Morocco v Spain: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images

It took to the final day of the Round of 16, but we finally had one surprise result, with Morocco eliminating Spain to set up a quarterfinal matchup against Portugal, who brushed aside Switzerland with ease.

Spain began the World Cup with a most impressive 7-0 pillaging of Costa Rica, but they failed to record a victory in their three subsequent games, settling for a draw against Germany, allowing a comeback win for Japan, and, today, failing to break down a solid Morocco side, who ended up prevailing in a penalty kick shootout after 120 scoreless minutes.

The plan to counteract Spain’s tiki-taka wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but Morocco executed it well enough to earn their place in the next round. It’s the furthest they’ve ever made it at a World Cup, and are the first African side in the quarterfinals since Ghana in 2010 — the fourth overall joining Cameroon (1990) and Senegal (2002) as well.

Hakim Ziyech played the full-120 and converted his kick in the shootout as well. Sevilla goalkeeper Bono made two saves before Achraf Hakimi won it with a classic Panenka. Spain went 0-for-3 in their attempts, which is just sad, especially as César Azpilicueta didn’t get any minutes today.

There was far less drama in the second game today, with Portugal easily brushing aside Switzerland, for whom Denis Zakaria played a little over 30 minutes.

Portugal looked quite good in fact after dropping Cristiano Ronaldo and giving the start to young Gonçalo Ramos instead. The 21-year-old Benfica striker took all of 17 minutes to score his second ever international goal, starting Portugal on their way to a 6-1 victory.

Ramos made his a brace early in the second and completed his hat-trick halfway through the second half. It was 5-1 by then, with defenders Pepe and Raphaël Guerreiro also on the scoresheet. Manual Akanji had gotten Switzerland on the board off a corner as well. Rafael Leão added a sixth for good measure.

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