Spain should be afraid of meeting Morocco in the World Cup Round of 16 on Tuesday, according to Achraf Hakimi.
Morocco defied expectations by finishing first in Group F, ahead of Belgium, Croatia, and Canada. In fact, the Atlas Lions drew with Croatia before going on to defeat Belgium 2-0 and Canada 2-1.
Spain was on the verge of qualifying for the knockout round. Japan won Group E with six points after a 2-1 victory over the defending champions. The latter finished second with four points, the same as Germany, but advanced due to a better goal difference.
According to Hakimi, despite Spain’s status in the world of football, Morocco should be respected for topping their group, and their opponents on Tuesday have reason to be concerned.
Achraf Hakimi’s statement
“Spain are a top-five team and always come to the World Cup to win. But our coach [Walid Regragui] has also taught us to have a winning mentality; it doesn’t matter who we are up against,” Hakimi said as quoted by RTE.
“We are going to try to play our way and try to beat them. We finished first in the group and I think we deserve a little respect. I think that Spain knows that and that they have to be a little afraid of us. And why can’t we pull off a surprise again?”
Morocco and Spain will meet for the second time at the World Cup, the first time in the group stages in 2018. Morocco took the lead twice before drawing 2-2, with Iago Aspas scoring a last-minute equalizer for Spain.
Spain’s stats vs Morocco
Spain has never lost to Morocco in three previous meetings, winning two and drawing one. Their two victories came in a qualifying play-off for the 1962 World Cup in November 1961, when they won 1-0 away and 3-2 at home.
If Morocco wins on Tuesday, they will face the winner of the match between Portugal and Switzerland.