World Class Players, Schoolboy Errors: Did Spain Underestimate Morocco at the World Cup?
In a World Cup that has already seen some of the major powers on the end of humbling defeats, Spain’s 2-2 draw with Morocco last night may not particularly stand out.
However, the basic nature of some of the mistakes made by players of the very highest calibre means Spain’s poor performance against Morocco must rank as one of the very worst we’ve seen from any of the genuine contenders to win the 2018 World Cup.
Also read: Spain 2-2 Morocco - 5 Talking Points
Spain's error-strewn display
The first half, in particular, saw three moments where Spain’s star-studded side looked distinctly amateur. Two of them came inside the opening 15 minutes as Spain were caught cold by Morocco’s high-intensity approach.
First, Gerard Pique was very lucky to stay on the pitch after a two-footed challenge on Khalid Boutaib. Almost inexplicably it went unpunished and wasn’t referred to VAR.
Moments later, two more of Spain’s golden class of 2010 made errors more befitting of schoolboy footballers. Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos had a total breakdown in communication which allowed Boutaib in to race clear and put the North Africans in front.
Spain could quite easily have been both a goal and a man down inside 15 minutes and that would have put their very future in the tournament in a position of some jeopardy.
While they equalised through Isco, Spain could have fallen further behind later in the half when Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were caught out by nothing more than a long throw over the top which led to another clear one-on-one opportunity for Morocco.
Why were Spain so poor?
While things didn’t get a great deal better after the break, the fact Spain’s most notable errors and moments of sheer sloppiness came early in the game suggests they may simply have underestimated the task they would be faced with.
There can be a tendency to over-analyse everything that happens in modern football but in this instance, Spain’s problems may simply lie with them not showing their opponents their due respect and not anticipating such a tough game.
In the case of Iniesta, Ramos, and Pique, we are talking about three vastly experienced players with over 100 caps each but you could trawl through the archives of their glittering careers and struggle to find many errors as basic as the ones they all made on Monday evening in Kaliningrad.
Spain approached the game as though they would have to do little more than show up to get the point they needed to advance against an already eliminated Moroccan side. However, the Africans played with purpose and intensity from the first whistle and, for a while, La Roja seemed totally unprepared for the battle they had entered into.
Perhaps the biggest irony is that things actually ended up quite well for Spain with stoppage time goals in both games ensuring they won the group to secure a more favourable knock-out round draw. But that will do little to detract from what was at times a puzzlingly bad display where Spain looked anything but potential world champions.