World Cup round of 16: Morocco vs. Spain prediction, preview and team news

After topping their group, Morocco aim to go even further in the tournament

Morocco players and staff celebrate winning group F
Morocco players and staff celebrate winning group F
(Image credit: Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Morocco had one of the standout campaigns in the opening stage of the 2022 Fifa World Cup. With two wins and a draw, the North Africans finished top of group F ahead of Croatia, Belgium and Canada.

In the penultimate round of 16 game at the World Cup they will go head-to-head with Spain, who started their group E games in emphatic fashion – thrashing Costa Rica 7-0. But a 1-1 draw with Germany and a 2-1 defeat against Japan meant Luis Enrique’s side finished second behind the Japanese.

Spain will be “favourites” to beat Morocco on Tuesday, but the teams’ experiences in the group phase were “a reminder of the unpredictability of tournament football”, said Shady Amir on Reuters. The Atlas Lions are a side “growing in confidence” under head coach Walid Regragui and 2010 World Cup winners Spain will face a “difficult test” at Education City Stadium.

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After reaching the knockouts, “we do not want to stop here”, said Morocco forward Zakaria Aboukhlal. “We want to go further and, God willing, we will keep going.”

Gavi: Japan loss must ‘serve as a lesson’

At one point during the group E final day, Spain dropped into third place after Costa Rica briefly jumped into the qualifying spots. Midfielder Gavi feels that the 2-1 loss against Japan has to “serve as a lesson” for what is to come in the knockout stages. “Luckily, that defeat has been resolved and we are clear about what we have to do,” the 18-year-old told Spanish newspaper Marca. “We are in the round of 16 and there are some very good teams that haven’t been able to do it. That’s why we have to really think that pressure is a privilege.”

Enrique has warned that Morocco won’t sit back and urged his team to be stronger when under pressure. “If against Morocco we have the fortune to go in front, [they] will risk it all at full pelt again,” said the Spanish head coach. “We have to show more strength in the moments when the opposition is pressing us.”

The winners of this last-16 tie will face Portugal or Switzerland in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Ferran Torres scored twice in Spain’s 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica

Ferran Torres scored twice in Spain’s 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica
(Image credit: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Match facts

  • Who: Morocco vs. Spain
  • What: Fifa World Cup round of 16
  • When: Tuesday 6 December 2022
  • Where: Education City Stadium
  • Kick-off time: 3pm (all times GMT)

How to watch on TV in the UK

Tuesday’s last-16 clash between Morocco and Spain will be shown live in the UK on ITV and ITVX. Coverage begins at 2pm and the match kicks off at 3pm.

Team news

Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi played with an ankle knock in the 2-1 win over Canada, but the PSG star is expected to be fit for the clash against Spain. Midfielder Selim Amallah, who played 25 minutes as a sub last time out, is also reportedly fit to feature.

Enrique, who rotated his line-up for the Japan game, is likely to recall Jordi Alba and Aymeric Laporte to the defence. Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio are also competing to start up front. There are doubts over the fitness of Cesar Azpilicueta, so if the Chelsea defender is not ready to start then Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal will come in. Dani Olmo and David Raya should be fit despite missing training.

Possible starting XIs

  • Morocco: Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui, Abdelhamid Sabiri, Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahi, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal
  • Spain: Unai Simon, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, César Azpilicueta, Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo


Spain are the “best footballing team in this tournament”, while Morocco are probably “stronger, physically”, said Chris Sutton on BBC Sport. This one is “going to be close”. Prediction: Morocco 0 Spain 1.

Morocco must “harness every inch of their recent defensive resilience” if they are to secure a first-ever appearance in the quarter-finals, said Ben Knapton on SportsMole. A “true force” to be reckoned with in the final third, Spain’s “extensive list of attacking options” on the bench could end up “making the difference” if the teams cannot be separated after 90 minutes. Prediction: Morocco 1 Spain 2 (after extra-time).

Iberian giants Spain are “bonafide contenders” to win the World Cup and will need their young guns to “step up on the big stage”, said Aditya Hosangadi on SportsKeeda. Morocco stunned Belgium in the group stage and are “perfectly capable of pulling off an upset on their day”. But Spain are the “better team on paper” and “should be able to win this game”. Prediction: Morocco 1-2 Spain.

If Enrique’s Spanish side “hit top gear”, their status as favourites will be “well-earned”, said Grey Whitebloom on However, they could “struggle to break down this obviously obdurate opponent”, who will have a “boisterous travelling contingent” roaring them on. Prediction: Morocco 0 Spain 1.

The Atlas Lions are “riding the crest of a wave at the moment”, said Jonathan Gorrie in the London Evening Standard. “So strong defensively”, and against a Spain team “not packed with goals”, Costa Rica game aside, Morocco “pulling off a shock cannot be ruled out”. Prediction: Morocco 2 Spain 0.

Spain have never lost in their three previous meetings with Morocco and “our prediction model” makes them “strong favourites to advance to the last eight”, giving them a “61.3% chance of victory”, said Harry Carr on Opta Analyst. The Atlas Lions have provided “one of the great underdog stories” of this World Cup, but their chances of a historic victory are rated at “just 14.7%, making them big outsiders”. The draw, which would mean extra-time and potentially penalties, is given a “24% chance”.

The stadium

Education City Stadium, located 4.3 miles west of Doha in Al Rayyan, has a capacity of 40,000. Six group-stage matches were held at the stadium, and in the knockouts it will host this round of 16 game and a quarter-final tie.



  • Head coach: Walid Regragui
  • Key player: Achraf Hakimi
  • One to watch: Sofiane Boufal
  • Goalkeepers: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Munir El Kajoui (Al Wehda), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (Wydad Casablanca)
  • Defenders: Nayef Aguerd (West Ham United), Yahia Attiat Allah (Wydad Casablanca), Badr Benoun (Qatar SC), Achraf Dari (Stade Brest), Jawad El Yamiq (Real Valladolid), Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich), Romain Saiss (Besiktas)
  • Midfielders: Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Selim Amallah (Standard Liege), Bilal El Khannouss (Racing Genk), Yahya Jabrane (Wydad Casablanca), Azzedine Ounahi (Angers), Abdelhamid Sabiri (Sampdoria)
  • Forwards: Zakaria Aboukhlal (Toulouse), Soufiane Boufal (Angers), Ilias Chair (Queens Park Rangers), Walid Cheddira (Bari), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla), Abde Ezzalzouli (Osasuna), Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al Ittihad), Amine Harit (Olympique Marseille), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)


  • Head coach: Luis Enrique
  • Key player: Pedri
  • One to watch: Gavi
  • Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Club), Robert Sanchez (Brighton & Hove Albion), David Raya (Brentford FC)
  • Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea FC), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Eric Garcia (FC Barcelona), Hugo Guillamon (Valencia CF), Pau Torres (Villarreal CF), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona), Jose Gaya (Valencia CF)
  • Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona), Rodri Hernandez (Manchester City), Gavi (FC Barcelona), Carlos Soler (Paris St Germain), Marcos Llorente (Atletico de Madrid), Pedri Gonzalez (FC Barcelona), Koke Resurreccion (Atletico de Madrid)
  • Forwards: Ferran Torres (FC Barcelona), Nico Williams (Athletic Club), Yeremi Pino (Villarreal CF), Alvaro Morata (Atletico de Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Ansu Fati (FC Barcelona)

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Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.