Spain had a tremulous start to the World Cup 2018. Just a few days before the kick-off, their coach, Julen Lopetegui was sacked by the Spanish football federation for signing a contract with Real Madrid.
Three matches into the tournament, and the drama hasn’t ceased. Last night’s match against Morocco was testimony to this. The team’s obvious vulnerability was reflected in their shocking defense leaving Spain staring into an abyss for the better part of the match.
The determination Spain appeared to be lacking was more than palpitant in Morocco with their tally of 6 yellow cards. Despite the fact that the team had been eliminated, they played with gusto and something more than passion. There were heart pounding moments from the 14th minute, when the mix up between Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Ramos allowed Khalid Boutaib to stride through or some could even say stroll through, and give Morocco a surprise lead.
Things looked up when Iniesta made a comeback by helping create Isco’s sublime equaliser. But Morocco’s commitment made for an enthralling match to the bitter end, which indeed it was for them. With 9 minutes left in regulation time, it looked as though they were going to be the heroes of the night after Youssef En-Nesyri rose above Spanish defense on a corner kick and headed a goal.
Spain was poised to limp through in second place and face Uruguay in the next round when Iago Aspas scored the goal that first was, then wasn’t and finally, thanks to the World Cup’s contentious innovation, the V.A.R. was!
The V.A.R. worked doubly in Spain’s favor when it delivered a penalty kick to Iran who secured a draw with Portugal lifting Spain to top position.
And so the drama ended for one night. There will be more for us on Sunday when Spain play the host team, Russia. Will Fernando Hierro have steadied the Spanish squad by then? The countdown begins.