If you would’ve told Morocco fans or their manager, Herve Renard, that they’d outshoot and outpossess both Iran and Portugal at World Cup, their next question would probably be, “So do we need to do against Spain to win Group B?”
Alas, Morocco lost a pair of 1-0 decisions to become the first team knocked out of the 2018 World Cup.
[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]
The Lions of Atlas fell to Iran in their opener on a stoppage time own goal after carrying 64 percent possession and a 13-8 advantage in shot attempts, then lost to a Cristiano Ronaldo fourth minute goal on Wednesday despite a 16-10 shot advantage and 53 percent of the ball.
“I’m very proud of the performance and I am very proud of my players, I’m very proud of this country,” Renard said.
With no hope of advancing to the next round, the manager is finding the experience bittersweet. From RTE:
“What I am sure of at this moment is that the entire Moroccan people is proud of this team. Of course it’s easier to play with a player who has one chance and he puts it away. But we are in Morocco.
“We have quality players. Despite the ups and downs of the game, we should have been more effective. Because, like in the first game, we had plenty of chances. I won’t blame anyone. That’s football. It’s always those who know how to be present in the box, the most gifted players, who make the difference. We took a lot of risks and we didn’t get our reward.”
It’s unlikely Morocco will hold either of those statistical advantages against Spain, especially a Spanish side yet to qualify, but there is plenty to like from the tournament aside from poor finishing quality.
But the performances of 19-year-olds Amine Harit (Schalke) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) — not to mention Hakim Ziyech (25, Ajax) — seem to hint at a promise for 2022. And Renard’s men can still play spoiler for Spain, which is no small shockwave.