Spain is prepared for penalties against Morocco at World Cup

Dec 4, 2022, 4:34 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 6:37 am
Spain's Ferran Torres scores a penalty, the third goal of his team, during the World Cup group E so...

Spain's Ferran Torres scores a penalty, the third goal of his team, during the World Cup group E soccer match between Spain and Costa Rica, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

              Morocco players celebrate by tossing the head coach Walid Regragui into the air at the end of the World Cup group F soccer match between Canada and Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
            
              Morocco's Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates after he scored his side's second goal during the World Cup group F soccer match between Canada and Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
            
              Spain's head coach Luis Enrique speaks to reporters during a news conference, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. Spain will play against Morocco in the round of 16 phase of the World Cup soccer tournament on Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
            
              Spain's Ferran Torres scores a penalty, the third goal of his team, during the World Cup group E soccer match between Spain and Costa Rica, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
            
              Morocco's Youssef En-Nesyri, left, celebrates beside Morocco's Sofiane Boufal, right, after he scored his side's second goal during the World Cup group F soccer match between Canada and Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha , Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Spain coach Luis Enrique gave his team a unique assignment following a penalty shootout loss to Italy at last year’s European Championship.

“I told my players they have homework ahead of the World Cup. You need to take at least 1,000 penalties with your club,” Luis Enrique recounted Monday. “We can’t just work on it in our training camp with the national team.”

While Spain is hoping it won’t come down to a shootout against Morocco in the round of 16 on Tuesday, at least the team is well prepared if it does get to that point.

Spain was also eliminated in a penalty shootout at the 2018 World Cup, by host Russia.

“It doesn’t just depend on luck. It’s a moment of the highest pressure. If you’ve trained for that often, then the way you take a penalty will improve,” Luis Enrique said. “Obviously you cannot train for the pressure and the tension. But it’s manageable. You can cope with that pressure.”

Ferran Torres converted a penalty for Spain in its opening 7-0 win over Costa Rica.

Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón saved two penalties in a shootout win over Switzerland before the loss to Italy at Euro 2020.

“The goalkeepers are ready, too. You’ve seen it in our training sessions,” Luis Enrique said through a translator. “It’s homework that we’ve taken into account.”

Morocco has been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament by winning a difficult group ahead of 2018 finalist Croatia and 2018 semifinalist Belgium.

Morocco conceded only one goal in its three group matches and the team has big support in Qatar as the last of the four Arab qualifiers still playing — and now the last African team, too, after Senegal was eliminated by England on Sunday.

“Everyone wants to come to Doha,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui, who only took over his team in August. “We could fill two stadiums.”

As close neighbors, there are also a lot of ties between Morocco and Spain.

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou and striker Youssef En-Nesyri both play in Spain for Sevilla. Talented right back Achraf Hakimi, a Paris Saint-Germain player, was born in Madrid. Regragui played in Spain with Racing Santander.

Many of Morocco’s players speak Spanish and the team’s medical staff is Spanish.

“Morocco is a country for which we have a great relationship,” Luis Enrique said. “It’s a festival of football.”

Spain also met Morocco in the teams’ final group game in 2018, which ended 2-2.

“They play a possession game, which is very difficult for the opponent but also for people watching,” Regragui said. “Tak, tak, tak, tak, tak until the players are tired.”

For inspiration, Morocco is looking to Japan’s win over Spain in the final set of group games, when Japan had only 17% of the possession.

“We need to have a strong head. We need to accept that they’re going to play a possession game,” Regragui said. “Spain won’t know what to do with all that ball possession — that’s our plan.”

The winner will face either Portugal or Switzerland for a spot in the semifinals.

___

Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against New York Knicks center Jericho Sims during the...
Associated Press

Irving to miss Nets’ game Saturday, day after trade request

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving will not play for the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, a day after he told the team he would like to be traded. The Nets said Irving’s absence was due to right calf soreness, adding him to the injury report for their game against Washington. Irving had not been […]
1 day ago
A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers

SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. […]
1 day ago
Austin Krajicek, right, and Rajeev Ram of the USA in action against Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev...
Associated Press

US sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals on Saturday, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek. They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ancer keeps his distance over Young in Saudi Arabia

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Abraham Ancer had a 6-under 64 to bump his lead to two shots over Cameron Young on Saturday going into the final round of the Saudi International. Ancer and Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year who had a 65, have separated themselves from the field […]
1 day ago
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts runs a drill during practice at the NFL football team's training f...
Associated Press

Super Bowl-bound Eagles are built around QB Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to draft Jalen Hurts in 2020 came with as much hand-wringing as intrigue regarding how to use the talented Heisman Trophy finalist. The Eagles already had quarterback Carson Wentz locked into a $128 million contract. They certainly had more pressing needs at the time on all sides of […]
1 day ago
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) drives as Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) defends during the f...
Associated Press

Young scores 27 to lead Hawks past Jazz, 115-108

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Trae Young had 27 points and six assists to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 115-108 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. De’Andre Hunter scored 26 points for the Hawks. Onyeka Okongwu had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dejounte Murray added 13 points and eight assists. Atlanta […]
1 day ago
Spain is prepared for penalties against Morocco at World Cup