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Morocco will come out “arms swinging” against Spain



Morocco coach Walid Regragui Monday said they will pull out all the stops and fight for a win against European powerhouse Spain in their round of 16 match on Tuesday.

Morocco are Africa’s only surviving nation here in Doha following the meek exit of Senegal in their pre-quarterfinal match against England on Sunday night.

The Atlas Lion face Spain’s La Roja at the 45,000-capacity Education City Stadium, situated some 7km south of Doha, seeking to become only the fourth African nation to qualify for a World Cup quarter-final.

Only Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) have made it to the last eight stage of football’s showpiece event.

“We will come out with our arms swinging and we want the prayers and support of all Africans and Arabs,” said Regragui in Doha.

“We have a lot of respect for Spain. They have a lot of experience but we want to win. Maybe we will pull off a surprise,” added the former Morocco international.

This will be the second successive World Cup meeting between Morocco and the 2010 champions. The teams battled to a 2-2 draw in their final group match in Russia 2018.

The African nation, playing in their sixth World Cup, will be full of confidence after their group-topping act where they held Croatia to a barren draw, thens defeated fancied Belgium (2-0) and Canada (2-1) to record their first consecutive wins at this level.

“We have had an extra day’s rest. We are in the best physical state. We have to work on the mental state. This is like a final match for us and we have to give our best. We do not want to have any regrets,” said Regragui.

The 47-year-old appealed for support from the huge Moroccan following that has descended on Doha in numbers and turned the stands in the stadium during Atlas Lions matches into a red, raucous sea.

“It is amazing when the fans come to the stadiums. When the stadium is full of Morocco fans, it pushes us.”

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and striker Youssef En-Nesyri will have good knowledge of the Spanish team. Both play in Spain for La Liga giants Sevilla.

Spain coach Luis Enrique said they were fully motivated to fight for a quarter-final spot.

Interestingly, apart from 2010 when they won the title, Spain have made the quarterfinal on five other occasions, from where they advanced to the semi-finals only once

Barcelona midfielder Pedri said they needed to treat Morocco with caution.

“Morocco topped their group and have talented individual players like PSG’s (Ashraf) Hakimi. We have to be very careful but I look forward to playing against them.”

On Sunday night, African champions Senegal were run over 3-0 by an efficient England side.

A disappointed Senegal coach Aliou Cisse summed up the bad evening for African football: “We played well in the first half hour and created chances but we did not score. We were not as good as we should have been. We did not have some key players and we were playing one of the best teams in the world. You saw the difference.”

Star player Sadio Mane got injured before the tournament started. Influential midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton was suspended while Nottingham defender Cheikhou Kouyate was also injured.

Cisse however said he was surprised they had conceded three goals as defence was a strong aspect of Teranga Lions’ play.

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