Spain set for Morocco match at World Cup finals
Spain’s final Group B game at the 2018 World Cup in Russia is against their neighbours across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco.
The match in Kaliningrad on Monday, 25 June kicks off at the same time as Iberian rivals Portugal play Iran in Saransk.
Given how La Roja drew their World Cup finals opener with the Euro 2016 winners 3-3 as Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick, nothing in this pool can be finally decided until these final games.
Three of Morocco’s starting XI played in Spanish football this past season, although many of Herve Renard’s squad are French-born.
In a pool full of fascinating subplots, this game is no different as the 2010 World Cup winners look to get out of their group for the first time since lifting the trophy in South Africa.
There’s very little head-to-head history to go on if you’re thinking of having a bet, though La Roja did win an intercontinental play-off tie for the 1962 World Cup home and away over Morocco in November 1961.
A gap of 31 places in the current FIFA World Rankings between the two explains why Spain are odds-on 1/3 favourites in the World Cup betting at William Hill to win this game.
Morocco, meanwhile, are as big as 9/1 to shock La Roja, with a draw priced at just less than 4/1. A comfortable victory for the Spanish looks assured because of the strength in depth at their disposal.
Preparations for the World Cup were thrown into chaos by Julen Lopetegui being named the new manager of La Liga giants Real Madrid just a few days before the tournament.
Spanish FA chiefs didn’t take kindly to the news or the way in which national boss Lopetegui conducted the negotiations with the Bernabeu in secret, so they took the big decision to sack him.
Brazil-born striker Diego Costa struck twice against Portugal so, if keeping his place leading the line, has to be considered to find the net again.
His battle with Morocco captain and Juventus defender Medhi Benatia will be key in this match. Both possess physical attributes, so can Atletico Madrid frontman Costa get further joy having relished his tussles with the Portuguese backline?
Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco was unlucky not to add his name to the scoresheet in La Roja’s World Cup opener, so he’s another that should come under consideration in the goalscorer markets.
A stoppage-time own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz when playing Iran meant Morocco were the only team in the group not to pick up any points after one round of games in the pool.
They do have players that can unlock defences, however, in Galatasaray’s Younes Belhanda and Belgian born Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez.
Ayoub El Kaabi, meanwhile, is something of an unknown quantity, having scored 11 goals for Morocco in 2018 before the World Cup started, yet he still plays his club football domestically.