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Spain Top Group B with 2-2 Draw vs Morocco, Will Face Russia in Round of 16

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IJune 25, 2018

KALININGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 25:  Iago Aspas of Spain celebrates with teammate Sergio Ramos after scoring his team's second goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Spain and Morocco at Kaliningrad Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Spain and Morocco played out a 2-2 draw as Group B reached its conclusion at the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Monday.  

The result means Spain finish finish top of the group and progress to the knockout stages while Morocco finish bottom with just one point.

   

Spain Need To Sharpen Up Shaky Defence

Spain put in a shaky defensive performance against Morocco and could have been reduced to 10 men when Gerard Pique escaped a red card for a two-footed lunge on Khalid Boutaib.

Football writer Daniel Storey offered his view:

Daniel Storey @danielstorey85

That's a disgrace. For Pique to not even get booked for a two-footed challenge with both feet off the floor at the point of contact is bizarre.

The Barcelona defender also escaped a deliberate handball on the edge of his own penalty area at the start of the second half.

Dermot Corrigan at ESPN FC summed up his display:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Pique handball there too - he's having bit of a shocker.

Pique was not the only player to put in a poor defensive showing. A mix-up between Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta on the halfway line allowed Boutaib to charge through and open the scoring.

Boutaib might have had a second after catching Ramos and Pique napping, but he could not beat David De Gea in Spain's goal.

Squawka's Muhammad Butt explained where it was all going wrong at the back:

Muhammad Butt @muhammadbutt

Carvajal is so out of position that Piqué is moving out of position to cover and it's wrecking the whole line. idk why Azpilicueta or Nacho aren't starting. https://t.co/imE8G7cG4Z

Spain also had the crossbar to thank for denying Nordin Amrabat after his shot beat De Gea but cannoned back off the woodwork.

Morocco did score again when Youssef En-Nesyri towered over Ramos and headed past De Gea. It was not enough for victory but Spain must sharpen up at the back if they are to have any chance of winning the World Cup.

     

Isco & Iniesta Key to Spain's World Cup Hopes

Spain were poor in defence, but in attack they still played as fluently as ever, and Iniesta and Isco highlighted just how crucial they are to their World Cup hopes.

The duo combined superbly to make it 1-1 as the former Barcelona man swept into the box and picked out Isco who lashed the ball high into the roof of the net.

Opta showed how influential he is for the national team:

OptaJose @OptaJose

9 - Isco Alarcon has scored more goals for Spain than any other player since the start of 2017 (nine goals). Stellar. #ESP #MAR #ESPMAR #WorldCup https://t.co/a6F4k3CaP7

The Real Madrid man was unfortunate not to add a second after the break as his header was cleared off the line by Romain Saiss.

Iniesta was also influential—his passing, movement and vision were too much for Morocco at times. He set up Diego Costa for a chance but the striker could not quite get his toe on the ball.

Football writer Simon Harrison singled the pair out for praise:

Simon Harrison @simonhfootball

Mixed bag of a first half for #ESP. Isco impressive again, Iniesta very good since his mistake. Spain vulnerable on the break, as expected. Diego Costa has grabbed his place and won’t be letting it go. #WorldCup

Spain's brand of football makes them easy on the eye and Isco and Iniesta provide the creativity to cut open defences. La Roja are still yet to convince they can go all the way but certainly have the attacking talent to cause even the very best teams problems.

   

Spain Deserved Lucky Break After Group Stage Woes

Spain rode their luck at times on Monday as they scraped the draw which was enough to see them finish as group winners.

Pique escaped a red card, Amrabat was denied by the crossbar and then in the dying moments VAR came to Spain's assistance to award La Roja Iago Aspas's goal.

The goal had initally been ruled out for offside but it was given after VAR had been consulted. Sports writer Andy West said it was the right decision:

Andy West @andywest01

People will inevitably moan about VAR but it was the correct decision. Aspas was onside. It was a goal. Simple as that.

It could be seen as fortuitous but Spain have deserved the little bit of luck that came their way. They should have won their opening game against Portugal but a soft penalty, a rare De Gea error and a late Ronaldo free-kick denied them all three points.

They utterly dominated Iran in their second game but had to settle for a narrow 1-0 win after being frustrated for long periods against Carlos Queiroz's side.

Winning Group B means Spain go on to face tournament hosts Russia who looked good in their opening two matches but were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Uruguay on Monday.

  

What's Next

Spain will face Russia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Morocco will return to action in September when they resume qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations with a clash against Malawi.