For the second round of 16 in its history, Morocco will face Spain this Tuesday afternoon (4 p.m.), the second confrontation between the two selections in the World Cup, with a Spanish touch to be found at the Atlas Lions.

World Cup 2022, Morocco: a selection of the Atlas Lions with "Spanish sauce"

  • Coupe World Cup 2022, Morocco: a selection of the Atlas Lions with

    Morocco 16:00

    World Cup 2022, Morocco: a selection of the Atlas Lions with "Spanish sauce"

    Spain

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Only 15 small kilometers separate these Kingdoms with common histories for several centuries: Spain and Morocco, separated by 15 small kilometers from the Strait of Gibraltar, which will compete this Tuesday afternoon for a place in the quarter-finals of the Cup of the World in Qatar (4 p.m., match to follow on our live commentary). After sharing points (sometimes considered controversial) during the Russian World Cup in 2018, Moroccans and Spaniards find themselves for only the second time in official competition, the fourth if we count the Europe/Africa play-off for the 1962 edition, won in the first leg (1-0) and return (3-2) by the teammates of Alfredo Di Stefano, legend of Real Madrid, and the Hungarian international Ferenc Puskás, who had been able to wear the yellow and red jersey at 4 occasions after 85 caps (and 84 goals) with the magic Magyars.

A Morocco a bit like Spain…

For this meeting in Qatari lands, Morocco will be ready to do anything to bring down a country that has long been present in the Cherifian territory. Even today, Spain has plazas de soberanía (presides or places of sovereignty) in northern Morocco, with Ceuta, Melilia and the Rock of Badis. This sporting duel therefore represents much more than a match of 90 minutes (or more) for the Moroccan supporters, already happy to play the second round of 16 in their history after 1986, lost against the FRG of Lothar Matthaus (1-0) in Mexico. We can add to this the strong community present in the Iberian Peninsula, as well as a growing immigration in the opposite direction since the economic crisis of 2008. This red and green influence found in the country of Cervantes is also felt in the workforce of Walid Regragui, a team with "Spanish sauce"…

Because yes, several brilliant players in the jersey of the Atlas Lions know, from very near or far, Spain and its league, La Liga. Starting with one of the executives of this selection, Achraf Hakimi: born in Madrid, child of Getafe (in the suburbs of the capital) and pure product of the Real Madrid training center before flying to Dortmund, Milan and evolving today in the colors of Paris Saint-Germain. In an interview with Marca, the right-back justified his choice of an international career, after a few tries with La Rojita: “I saw that it wasn't the right place for me, I didn't feel at home. It was not because of anything in particular, but because of what I felt, because it was not what I had learned and lived at home, namely the Arab culture, the fact of to be Moroccan. I wanted to be here.”

… well Liga

A decision confirmed by a cultural difference, therefore, which was also reiterated by several players born on Spanish soil, such as Munir El Kajoui, brilliant against Belgium (2-0 victory). Native of Ceuta and passed by the club of Melilia, the 33-year-old goalkeeper had distinguished himself in the jersey of Malaga before discovering the Moroccan selection thanks to Badou Zaki, becoming in a short time the indisputable holder as the last bastion before the outburst by Yassine Bounou. The latter is one of the many players to have experienced Spanish football, this time in La Liga with Atlético de Madrid. Lining of Jan Oblak, the one who joined the Colchoneros from Wydad AC had not managed to play any league match, before exploding in Girona and confirming the hopes placed in him in Seville.

With the Andalusians, he was joined six months later by Youssef En-Nesyri, who made his mark in Malaga (D2) and Leganés (D1) before experiencing the high level with the Sevillistas, with a great 2020-2021 season. (24 goals TCC). Let's add to the Andalusians the Jawad El Yamiq (Real Valladolid), Ez Abde (trained at Barça, loaned to Osasuna) but also Sofiane Boufal, today at Angers SCO and passed by Celta de Vigo three seasons ago . This knowledge of La Liga can give a small advantage to the Atlas Lions, who will play a dominant team of Luis Enrique in the game (76% possession in hens) but very little sharp in the last third, as evidenced by their defeat against to Spain, during which we saw a team turn the ball in front of the surface without finding the fault in a united and solid Japanese block.

Regragui fan of Spanish football

We must also not forget coach Walid Regragui, who worked for Racing Santander during his playing career. Admittedly, he had only played 26 games in three seasons, but the former right-back and former Moroccan international (45 caps) seems to know La Roja's football philosophy well. First by his experience in La Liga, but also by his obsession with video analysis, which he does directly with his players on the training grounds. Nevertheless, his style is a little further from what one can have on the Iberian grounds: indeed, he is above all a pragmatic coach, giving more importance to the result than to the overall performance of his team, who must nevertheless give everything in terms of intensity, technical mastery, but also impact in the duels to destabilize the opponent.

At the press conference, the 47-year-old technician is aware of the place of Spain in the hearts of some of his elements, hoping that they will be up to it to create a new mentality for the future of the selection: “we have players who are from Spain, who play in Spain, it is a country dear to Moroccans, we like Spanish football. I am a fan of this culture, even if I try to develop a particular one for Morocco, we must also have our own. The Spaniards still have the same style of play, but they still manage to cause great problems.” The one that Moroccan fans call “Rass the Lawyer” (head of a lawyer in Arabic) or Pep Regragui (in reference to Pep Guardiola) is therefore expected for a meeting that can offer the history of Cherifian football its first quarter-final of a World Cup, already missed 36 years ago. …

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