Well everyone, you’ve officially witnessed my worst ever losing streak officially. I’ve mentioned over the past few World Cup posts that I had a 7-2 run, and at one point was 8-7 on the World Cup officially. Those days are gone. Sayonara. Adios. Buenos Noches. I’ve now lost 10 of my last 11 plays. You might be thinking that would make me 1-10 over my last 11 plays. You’d be wrong. That one I didn’t lose I also didn’t win. It’s no secret I’ve had a brutal 4 to 5 days of betting on the World Cup, but if I took a step back and looked at the plays I’ve made over the course of these few days I would only change the South Korea one. The rest, I feel like, were decent reads. The United States largely played well against the Dutch but lacked concentration, Belgium had an ungodly amount of chances to cash our over and Belgium to win, and the list goes on.
But that’s the game we play. We’re gambling after all on a result that we can’t control. All we can do is intake the knowledge we receive from the games we watch and analyze the players, coaches, systems, and more to enhance our plays moving forward. That’s what I intend to do, and that’s why I’m back today, undeterred and ready to provide you with my analysis and breakdowns of the final Round of 16 World Cup games, and if you enjoy this I encourage you to follow me on twitter here – and without further ado, here is my play!
Morocco vs Spain (10:00 AM ET)
If you told Moroccans coming into the World Cup that they would have won their group and found themself matches up with Spain, they would have been ecstatic at the fact they were able to oust the Belgians for the top spot, and suspected that Germany took the group over. I can’t imagine many would have guessed that Belgium didn’t advance from the group and that Japan won Group E, but that’s where the ball landed.
Morocco was easily the most impressive team in a group littered with talent. At 2-1-0, Morocco drew Croatia to begin the group stage before beating Belgium 2-0 and putting Canada to bed early with 2 goals before the half-hour mark. Their attack consists of fleet footed, skillful athletes Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal and they feed Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri. While that front three is solid by all means, it’s their outside backs overlapping that creates havoc and danger for opponents. PSG rightback Achraf Hakimi is one of the best in the world and opposite of him is emerging sensation Noussair Mazraoui who signed with Bayern Munich from Ajax in the summer. Veteran defenders Romain Saiss and Naif Aguerd anchor a respectable defense with Yassine Bounou in goal.
The Moroccans won’t have much possession on Tuesday, we know that much. Spain enters the match averaging 76% possession for the tournament. They’ve held the ball on average for over 68 of the 90 minutes of each match. Morocco will have to be disciplined defensively to cut off passing lines and mark runners given the Spaniards free-flowing style. The front three can largely be positionless, so communication and direction will be imperative if they want to see success.
After Spain beat Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game, many were ready to crown them favorites – or close to it – of the tournament. That flame was quickly extinguished as they drew Germany 1-1. Even though Spain dominated the ball in that game, they were doubled up by Germany in terms of xG (1.29 – 0.62). Then the Japanese came barking and a similar story arose. Spain had 82% of the possession but two rapid fire goals after halftime saw Japan breakthrough and then hold their lead, frustrating Spain and just like Germany, outscoring them on expected goals.
My fear with the Spanish team is that they possess for possession’s sake. When you have the ball the opponent doesn’t and thus you can’t be scored on, but if you aren’t progressing up the field and endangering the opponent’s box, is it really all that valuable? Some teams in club football are brilliant at it (see Manchester City, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich) because of slashing runs, creative passes, and lethal finishers. Spain has the creative passes, but they don’t have the slashing runs or lethal finishers necessary to strike fear into their opponent’s hearts.
Spain is a one goal favorite in this matchup and deservedly so. They boast some of the best players in Europe across their midfield and defense, that much can’t be disputed. Spain’s issue since David Villa, David Silva, and others left is that they don’t have consistent goals in the team to break through to the next level internationally. They might crack the code of the Moroccan defense at some point in this game, but it won’t be enough to beat win the spread. I’ll take Morocco to absorb the pressure without feeling much goal threat and counter when they can.
Pick: Morocco +1 -105 (1.5u)