Spain play Morocco with the aim of sealing qualification into the Round of 16. The Hard Tackle looks at three players who could shine in this game.
Spain only need a point from their last game, which they play against Morocco, to ensure they are guaranteed a place in the next round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Their task is quite complicated as they are level on points currently with Portugal as well as on goal difference.
In the event of Portugal winning their last group game against Iran, Spain have to win against Morocco and also ensure they score more goals than their Iberian rivals, to guarantee top spot in Group B. The only disadvantage to both Spain and Portugal is that they play their games at the same time, meaning they have to play their own game and not seek specific targets.
Morocco, on the other hand, have had a decent tournament so far and as expected were one of the best defensive sides of the competition, despite conceding a goal in each of their two games thus far. To add some respite to the disappointment of their exit, Morocco will be looking to finish things on a high, and indeed a win over Spain would be able to do that.
As Spain and Morocco meet for their final group game, The Hard Tackle presents three players to look out for on the pitch when these two meet on Monday.
The Spain and Atletico Madrid striker has had an excellent start to the tournament and has found goals coming at a regular pace. He scored the solitary goal in the game against Iran having already bagged two earlier against Portugal which resulted in a pulsating 3-3 draw.
Costa will be looking to keep pace with the other prolific scorers at this tournament, currently, led by Harry Kane and his five goals. Others like Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo are behind Kane and just ahead of Costa, meaning the Spanish striker would want to close the gap between them.
Against Morocco, he has the opportunity to test himself against a tricky defence that has proven to be stubborn throughout the two games they have played. Costa would thus, relish such a test and take it as an opportunity to prepare for the further rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where things could get much trickier than they are now.
Much of the emphasis remains on the attacking side of things, as Spain need a win as well as the goals to keep safe distance between top spot and second place of Group B, which seems achievable only through a better goal difference or points tally than Portugal.
Spain are expected to dominate the game through possession and steadily pinning their opponents in their own box, but Sergio Busquets will have a crucial role to play. Busquets’ experience with Barcelona as well as the Spanish side would prove vital, as he is so used to controlling games in midfield which will also ease the pressure on the backline.
He will act as the anchorman, distributor and will protect his side from surprise counter-attacks that Morocco might launch anytime in the game. Busquets needs to be at his best and knows that midfield domination will be vital to win the matches going forward.
While Morocco have already exited the tournament, courtesy their two narrow defeats in their opening two group games, they will still be looking to bow out with a dramatic win over Spain. The North Africans have nothing to lose in this game, but could affect the fortunes of the other teams in the group with a victory over Spain.
For their chances and ideas to materialise, Medhi Benatia will have to play a crucial role. The Morocco captain has had a good tournament so far in Russia, keeping his balance and that of his defence tight, and he would wish for a more accomplished performance against Spain in their last game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.