Spain will play Russia in the last 16 of the World Cup on Sunday after just about managing to top Group B with a 2-2 draw against Morocco.
Morocco looked to be headed for a win but Iago Aspas managed to score a VAR-assisted late equaliser which was enough as Portugal could only draw with Iran in the other game.
The expectations from this game were met from the start as Spain dominated more than 70% of the possession and looked dangerous early on. A very attacking formation with Thiago and Iniesta in central midfield gave La Roja multiple passing options all over the pitch, and they looked set to unlock the Moroccan defense at any moment.
Then Andrés Iniesta made a rare, inexplicable error that gave Boutaïb a clear path to goal with only David De Gea to beat. The striker was calm and composed, and just rolled the ball under De Gea’s legs to give his side a shocking lead. But Spain took just five minutes to equalize thanks to Iniesta, who redeemed himself and made a very common Iniesta play: a run through the defense and a perfect assist to Isco, who fired the ball into the roof of the net.
After scoring Spain increased the pressure and looked even more threatening, but Morocco adopted an interesting strategy to slow down the pace of the game: kick all the Spanish players in sight. We saw four yellow cards in nine minutes, and the Moroccans were able to frustrate Spain into poor decision-making. The only clear chance came on a corner when Sergio Busquets found himself all alone in the box but headed the ball well over the bar.
Spain improved in the final minutes of the half, and they certainly looked likely to score the winner as we reached halftime.
Spain dominated the second half but both both teams had chances to score. Isco had a header cleared off the line while Nordin Amrabat smashed a great shot off the crossbar.
Morocco must have thought they had won it late on when Youssef En-Nesyri outjumped Sergio Ramos and planted a header past De Gea with just nine minutes of normal time remaining.
But Spain kept going and somehow managed to find another goal. Aspas was the hero as he flicked the ball home deep into stoppage time. The goal was initially ruled out for offside but after a VAR check it was given.
Meanwhile, in the other match in Group B it was all kicking off as well with Iran scoring a penalty in stoppage time to rescue a 1-1 draw.
It was frantic stuff but after the whistles had gone it means Spain finish top and play Russia in the last 16, while Portugal are runners-up and face Uruguay.
Spain: De Gea; Carvajal, Piqué, Ramos, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta; Silva, Costa, Isco
Goals: Isco (19’), (Aspas 92’)
Morocco: Munir; Dirar, Da Costa, Saïss, Hakimi; El Ahmada, Boussoufa; Amrabat, Belhanda, Ziyech; Boutaïb
Goals: Boutaïb (14’), En-Nesyri (81’)