Morocco vs Spain: World Cup Round of 16 Preview, 2022
Photo via gettyimages/NurPhoto

Geographically all that separates Spain and Morocco is the Mediterranean Sea. Although many will be unaware that multiple Spanish settlements are located within Northern Africa. The two most prominent are Ceuta, which is directly south of the Gibraltan peninsula and Melilla, a slightly larger city nearer the Algerian border.

Tuesday's match goes beyond football with the two countries based so close to each other and have developed an interesting political relationship. There have been a number of discussions between the two about the independence of Western Sahara, while many African migrants have attempted to cross the border into Europe. Morocco's attempt to join the European Union in 1987 is another poignant talking point, with that being said the African nation is an associated country of the union.

As for the football, Morocco have surprised many at this World Cup. None more so than Roberto Martinez's Belgium side, defeating them 2-0 in their second group stage. The Atlas Lions topped Group F and will feel unlucky to have been drawn against Spain.

Their success has been built of a strong defensive formula with West Ham's Nayef Aguerd particularly impressing. Conceding one goal in three group games (Unfortunately for Aguerd it was his own goal against Canada). But the decision to replace the experienced Vahid Halilhodzic with Walid Regragui, a native Moroccan, seems to be paying off so far.

Whatever happens against their European counterparts, Morocco should view this World Cup as a major success.

Spain on the other hand will feel disappointed to have come second in their group, with Japan taking top spot. Against Costa Rica, Spain were exhilarating, scoring seven goals in a rout versus the Central Americans.

But one point in matches against Germany and Japan led to them only qualifying over Die Nationalmannschaft on goal difference. 

Tuesday's matchup though will lead to a clash of styles, that could be extremely intriguing. Luis Enrique's possession-based side take elements from previous national team managers such as Vicente del Bosque. Pedri and Gavi as many will be aware now, fit the Spanish midfield mould to a tee. Regragui's Morocco however prefer to concede possession as shown in games against Croatia and Belgium. Expect Spain to have 70-75% of the ball. 

Team News

There are no fresh injury concern for either nation going into Tuesday's affair.

Likely lineups

Morocco - Bounou; Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Sabiri; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal

Spain - Simon; Carvajal, Rodri, Torres, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; Torres, Morata, Olmo

Key players

Morocco - Achraf Hakimi

Hakimi born in Madrid and a product of the Real Madrid academy, has more links to Tuesday's opposition than most. At only 24, he has already played in four of the five supposed major leagues (He is yet to venture into England) and is regarded as one of the highest quality full backs in world football. Together with Bayern Munich's Noussair Mazraoui, Morocco have an impressive pair of full backs. Hakimi is likely to start on the right with Mazraoui playing an inverted role on the left. 

Spain - Alvaro Morata

Throughout his career, Morata has divided opinion. His CV looks extremely impressive, but his goal scoring record doesn't seem to match. Chelsea fans were relatively pleased when the striker departed Stamford Bridge and headed back to his native Madrid to play for Atletico. Morata can also add Atletico's cross city rivals, Real to the elite clubs he has played for as well as two spells in Turin for Juventus. However so far at this World Cup, he has scored in every game, 3 in 3 and is likely to be Spain's biggest goal scoring threat on Tuesday. 

Match details

  • Where is the match being played?

Morocco vs Spain is being played at the Education City stadium.

  • What time is the match kicking off?

The match is kicking off at 3pm GMT.

  • Where can I watch the match?

The game is available to watch in the UK on ITV1.

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