Spain survived a near-disaster scenario, which could have seen them eliminated from the 2018 World Cup (pending result elsewhere), but still struggled en route to a 2-2 draw with Morocco in Kaliningrad, Russia, on Monday.
From start to finish, it was a muddled mess of a performance for Fernando Hierro’s side. And yet, rather than facing Uruguay, who clinched Group A with a 3-0 victory over Russia earlier in the day, Fernando Hierro’s side finishes top of Group B (based on goals scored) and will face the hosts in the round of 16. More importantly, they’ll (likely) avoid the likes of Brazil, France and Germany in their half of the knockout bracket.
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Khalid Boutaib, Isco, Youssef En-Nesyri and Iago Aspas scored the goals, in that order, as Spain scraped their way to a 1W-2D-0L record in the group stage.
The scoring opened in perhaps the most unlikely way imaginable: a giveaway by Andres Iniesta, though plenty of blame could be given to Sergio Ramos as well, and an easy breakaway for Boutaib, who raced in on goal and slid the ball between David De Gea‘s legs to make it 1-0 (WATCH HERE).
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Morocco’s lead didn’t last long, though, as Iniesta atoned for his earlier error, with a little help of some silky operators wearing red. A quick passing sequence down the left side of the penalty area freed Iniesta to play the simple, but perfectly timed, ball to Isco for a close-range finish. (WATCH HERE)
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The second half’s first great scoring chance came in the 55th minute, and it nearly put Spain behind again. Nordin Amrabat unleashed a powerful, right-footed strike from the corner of the penalty area, leaving De Gea completely helpless in goal, but the Watford man was denied by the 90-degree angle where the crossbar meets post. Another wake-up call for the 2010 World Cup winners, but a massive let-off in the end.
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En-Nesyri headed home the would-be winner from Faycal Fajr’s corner kick in the 81st minute, seconds after Gerard Pique was perhaps suspected of having committed a handball offense inside the penalty area.
It wasn’t the last bit of drama, though, as Aspas flicked home the equalizer in the 90th minute. He was initially ruled offside by the assistant referee, but a video review indicated he was perfectly level when the ball was crossed into the box.