One of the favorites for the title, Spain, take on surprise package Morocco in the World Cup 2022 round of 16 on Tuesday (10am ET).
Morocco vs Spain preview
This is one of the most unpredictable round-of-16 ties. Many soccer pundits said before the World Cup that Morocco could be one of the dark horses in the competition and they were right: Walid Regragui’s men ended up topping Group F.
This is the second time that the Atlas Lions, who defeated Belgium and Canada in the group stage, have got this far in the tournament, having been eliminated in this round back in 1986.
Meanwhile, their rivals Spain started the competition in amazing fashion by being merciless against Costa Rica (7-0) and recording one of the best matches of the tournament in their 1-1 draw vs Germany.
However, La Roja, who seemed one of the most solid teams in the tournament, faced virtual elimination during some minutes against Japan, a game they ended up losing 2-1. However, Luis Enrique’s men were saved by Germany’s spectacular comeback against Costa Rica in the final minutes of their game.
Yassine Bounou, who played the full match against Canada, will feature from the start, while Achraf Hakimi seems to have recovered from his ankle issues and will also play.
The North African side, who will welcome back Sofyan Amrabat and Sofiane Boufal from being rested, are on an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
As for Spain, César Azpilicueta is a doubt after dealing with pain in his calf, while Unai Simón will be in between the sticks despite not having a good performance vs Japan.
Spain, who finished second in Group E, were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in the last 16, but they have never suffered back-to-back exits at this point of the competition.
Morocco vs Spain: match odds
Although this is shaping up as a far from straightforward assignment for Spain, they are heavily favored by the bookmakers to win Monday’s round-of-16 tie. A victory for Luis Enrique’s side is priced by US betting houses at around -190 to -205, while the odds on a Morocco win are considerably longer: between +575 and +600.
Morocco vs Spain prediction
Morocco and Spain will be playing again four years on from meeting in the group stages in Russia, where the Spaniards managed to get a late 2-2 draw.
Both teams have quality players who can decide a game at any given moment. It wouldn’t be too much of a shocking result to see Morocco pulling off the upset or seeing the game go to extra time, although Spain are the favorites due to their young talents and the experience they also have.
Prediction: Morocco 1-1 Spain after 90 minutes (before La Roja edge it 2-1 in extra time)
Who is refereeing Morocco vs Spain?
Argentinian referee Fernando Andrés Rapallini will take charge of the fixture. Alongside him are assistants Juan Pablo Belatti and Diego Yamil Bonfá Paredes, while the fourth official is Raphael Claus.