Spain Vs. Morocco World Cup Round of 16 Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/6/22)

If you thought groups E and F were the two most hectic and challenging ones of the tournament, you weren’t alone. Spain and Morocco made it out though, and they’d probably agree. Both are already battle-tested and put in some strong performances to make it this far, but only one will be advancing to a quarterfinal. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this clash of styles between two cross-continental next door neighbors.

Spain Vs. Morocco Odds

Spain are pretty big favorites in this one, with odds of -175 to win the match within 90 minutes. Morocco are an eye-catching +550, while the draw, which would result in overtime, is +290. For goalscoring, the line is set at 2.5 as always, but the under is a favorite at -155.

Spain Vs. Morocco Prediction & Pick

Spain entered this World Cup viewed as serious contenders, but with the major stipulation that nobody knew exactly who might be the team’s primary goalscorer. With a lot of talented players who are capable of possessing the ball and building up to good chances, they’ve had mixed results when it comes to turning those chances into goals. They put together one of the more impressive performances of the tournament in their 7-0 dismantling of Costa Rica, but struggled to turn possession into output against Germany and Japan. They possessed the ball 64% and 82% of the time in those two matches, but only scored once in each and were limited to a draw and a loss. It’s officially been two games without a solid performance, so it’s fair to ask any and all questions of Spain once more.

Morocco, on the other hand, were not viewed as favorites coming into the tournament. They were drawn into a group with the 2nd and 3rd place finishers from the last World Cup, as well as an up-and-coming Canada side who absolutely dominated CONCACAF qualifiers, but they went undefeated and were arguably the better side all three times out. They became the first African team to win a World Cup group since 1998, and officially announced themselves to the rest of the tournament field as a force to be reckoned with. Although they might be best known for forward Hakim Ziyech and even the attacking actions of fullback Achraf Hakimi, Morocco dominated defensively, allowing just one goal- an own goal, at that- throughout the whole group stage. They’ll look for more of the same against Spain as they attempt to continue to exceed all expectations and move on.

To be completely frank, I believe that they will do just that. It’s mind-blowing to me that this team dominated the best group in the tournament, yet still aren’t being viewed as a serious threat to beat just about anyone they face. Maybe it’s a lack of willingness to respect teams outside of Europe and South America, but they have legitimate stars, and all of their men play as a unit- I thought their triumph over Belgium was one of the best displays of team play in this tournament.

I’m not sure if they’ll get it done in regulation or overtime, but I just don’t think Spain have the attack to succeed where Belgium and Croatia failed- Morocco will be looking good if they can score just one goal, so I’m leaning towards their 90 minute moneyline. That being said, Spain are favored enough that I think the double-chance for Morocco and draw would be good value, if you can get it. Regarding the scoring line, I do like the under. I’ve already ranted and raved about Morocco’s defense, but their attack hasn’t had much consistency, it’s just an overall recipe for a gritty, low-scoring match.

Key Matchups

Spain Forwards vs. Morocco Defense

My main basis for picking Morocco in this one is that I don’t think Spain has what it takes to break down their excellent defense. If Spain wants to prove me wrong and stay alive in this tournament, they’re going to have to do some excellent work in this area, much closer to their Costa Rica performance than anything since. Luis Enrique’s XI featured the same front three in the first two matches, with Marco Asensio in the middle, flanked by Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres as wingers. After the lackluster performance against Germany, only Olmo stayed in the lineup, as the lone goalscorer from that match, Alvaro Morata, started at striker and Nico Williams appeared at right wing. But despite an early Morata strike, both were lifted before the 60th minute in favor of Asensio and Torres, both of whom were, in turn, very mediocre. So it’ll be interesting to see if Enrique goes back to his initial front line, or tries something completely different against Morocco.

They’ll be trying to crack a Morocco back line that has only been scored on by…themselves with an own-goal against Canada. Unshockingly, given their excellent performances, it’s been the same back four in each match. PSG superstar Achraf Hakimi has played right back, West Ham’s Naif Aguerd and team captain Romain Saiss have been the rock-solid centre-back pairing, and Bayern man Noussair Mazraoui is the left back. Despite the team overall getting outpossessed in each match- sometimes significantly- the back line only allowed over 1 xG in one match, the one against Canada. You heard that right, the mighty Belgium and Croatia sides put up 1.48 total xG against this group. In addition to their strong defensive play, all of these guys have been real contributors in terms of progressive passing from the back line, and of course Hakimi is one of the main centerpieces of the team’s attack. And lastly, Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou has been pretty solid for his country as he’s played each match. If this group plays up to potential once again, it’s going to look a lot like the Belgium or Croatia match- a major European power left frustrated, shut out, and without a win by this team’s exceptional defending.

The Midfield Battle

As I alluded to earlier, Morocco’s midfield has been comfortably the weakest link. Belgium and Croatia had 67% and 65% of possession, while even Canada held 59% of the ball. All three opponents also had pass accuracy percentages in the high 80s, and each one of those figures was higher than what Morocco achieved in the match. Going up against Spain, one of the best midfields in the World, they’re going to have to be much better if they want their team to keep succeeding. The first two matches interestingly featured identical midfields for Morocco, with Fiorentina’s Sofyan Amrabat in the middle and Selim Amallah and Azzedine Ounahi on either side. Against Canada, the one change was Amallah being replaced by Sampdoria man Abdelhamid Sabiri, although that change was reversed after 65 minutes. It seems that the group is just about defined, they’re just going to have to be at their best against Spain’s star midfield.

Much like Morocco’s back four, Spain’s midfield is undoubtedly the engine that makes the whole machine tick. They’ve been excellent, absolutely dominating possession each game- a ridiculous 82% against Costa Rica, then a still-excellent mark of 64% vs. Germany, and then back up to 82% in a head-scratching loss to Japan. It’s been the same group each match, no surprise there as they’ve certainly done their jobs as individuals and as a unit. It’s a Barca trio for Spain- versatile youngsters Gavi and Pedri flank the legendary veteran and team captain Sergio Busquets, one of the few remnants of the historic champion teams of that 2008-12 window. This group more or less just needs to keep doing what they’re doing, win possession and continuously move the ball. If they are disrupted by Morocco’s less prolific midfield array, it’s going to be a thoroughly uphill battle for Spain in this match.

From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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