Michel Salgado believes there is a future for Luis Enrique's youthful Spain squad but says they must adapt after a shock World Cup exit.

La Roja were stunned on penalties following a goalless draw with Morocco in the last-16 on Tuesday, to curtail a tournament they had been among the favourites for.

It came after finishing second in their group behind Japan following an unexpected loss to the Samurai Blue and likely marks the end of the road for several senior players.

But with one of the younger squads at Qatar 2022, headlined by talents such as Gavi, Pedri and Ansu Fati, former Real Madrid and Spain defender Salgado believes the possibilities are still bright for the national team.

"If we want to win again, we have to make a clean slate, and we have to start working with the new," he told Stats Perform. "I think it's a team that can give much more in the next World Cup.

"It is a team with a lot of talent, there is no doubt about that. I believe that what we cannot be right now is fatalists. On the contrary, I think we have to be positive.

"We are not going to change our identity. Spain is a country that is measured by the football of possession and control of the game. What we do have [to do is] adapt to modern times.

"I think it's time to analyse how we can be more effective with what we have and look for that group that can be back to win the World Cup."

Salgado accepted the frustrations of Spain's ignominious exit, but says it is unfair to compare their achievements to those of the side that dominated world football over a decade ago.

"Obviously, for the fans, it is a disappointment," he added. "I have to see it from a different angle. I think it is a young team, a team at a time of total change.

"The pressure, I think that's the first thing we have to erase. We have to make a clean slate and start getting the best out of the players we have now."

Ferran Torres rued the "external factors" that he felt cost Spain in their shock penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco in the last 16 of the World Cup.

La Roja crashed out in the round of 16 for the second successive finals, as Yassine Bounou produced a heroic display with Morocco triumphing 3-0 on penalties after a goalless draw.

Luis Enrique's men dominated proceedings, enjoying over 77 per cent of possession over the 120 minutes, but were subsequently made to pay for not converting that superiority after creating just one shot on target, with Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all off target in the shoot-out.

Spain consequently became the first nation to lose four World Cup penalty shoot-outs, but Torres insists he and his team-mates could not have done more. 

"We gave everything from minute one to 120," he said. "We have not been successful in front of goal. It was difficult, they locked themselves in, they have played that way, and the chances we had were not clear at all.

"We have frustration, because we have been superior, we have not been able to materialise the opportunities we have had, and there have been external factors that have not helped us.

"We had been practising the penalties because we knew they were games of 120 [minutes] plus penalties. But we continue working for the future."

Marcos Llorente concurred "it was very complicated" to create opportunities to break down a resolute Morocco, who became the fourth African nation to reach the quarter-finals after Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010).

Rodri added: "We haven't been right on penalties, and we're going home. I don't know what else to say, I wish someone up there had helped us with penalties. The team has given everything, and we deserved to pass."

Walid Regragui believes the diversity within Morocco's squad has created the perfect blend after the Atlas Lions made the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

Morocco beat Spain 3-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Education City Stadium on Tuesday.

That sent La Roja out in the last 16 for the second successive World Cup and confirmed Africa has a representative in the quarter-finals for the first time since Ghana in 2010.

Yassine Bounou, who was born in Canada, and Achraf Hakimi, who was raised in Madrid, were the penalty shoot-out heroes, with the goalkeeper saving two of Spain's spot-kicks before the Paris Saint-Germain full-back chipped home the winner.

For Regragui, it is evidence that Morocco can call on players of Moroccan heritage whether or not they were born within the country.

"I fought this a lot of times," he said in his post-match press conference.

"Before this World Cup we had a lot of problems about guys born in Morocco and Europe. Sometimes people, including some journalists in this room, said these guys don't love Morocco, why not play with the guys born in Morocco?

"We showed to the world that every Moroccan is Moroccan, when he comes with the national team he wants to die, wants to fight.

"I was born in France but nobody can take my heart from my country. My players give 100 per cent. Some players born in Germany, some in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France and every country has a football culture. You make this milkshake with that and get to the quarter-finals."

Regragui is the first African coach to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, but he does not pay heed to such statistics.

"I don't care. I fight that," he added. "Sometimes people say Portuguese coaches or Spanish coaches are the best.

"It's about competence, not if you're Arabic or African.

"I'm ambitious and that's what I give to my players. Maybe when I'm an old man I'll be happy about that. But I'm proud for my country. It shows you can have a Moroccan coach and do it, you just need confidence."

Having beaten Belgium and topped a group that also included 2018 runners-up Croatia, Morocco are the surprise package in Qatar.

One of the major changes Regragui has made from the previous regime, that of Vahid Halilhodzic, is the recall of Hakim Ziyech.

The Chelsea playmaker was ostracised by Halilhodzic but returned to international football for Regragui, who explained: "What he's doing is tremendous but the Moroccan people wanted to see him and were encouraging him and he responded to that.

"We need to give him responsibility and he needs to be loved. It's like Neymar for Brazil, [Kylian] Mbappe for France – you can't just see him as another player, he's your best player.

"Some coaches say all players should be treated equally but it's not the case. Hakim is not just another player, I show him love and respect because it's what he deserves. Like Achraf [Hakimi], the other players as well. They've shown they are prepared to give everything for the national team when they play."

Spain coach Luis Enrique stood by his players, and his philosophy, following their World Cup exit at the hands of Morocco on Tuesday.

It means since winning the title in 2010, Spain have failed to advance beyond the round of 16 stage in three attempts.

Spain racked up 1019 passes over 120 minutes of domination but a glaring lack of cutting edge stunted their attempts to find a goal with the game going to a penalty shoot-out in which Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missed.

Luis Enrique insisted he was happy with the way his team played and stood by his style of football.

"We dominated but lacked a goal," he said. "We created chances, we were progressive but we met an opponent who performed to a high level.

"We could've created more and been more efficient but I was happy with my team. They represent me and represent my style and I can only praise them.

"I am very happy with the profile of the players I have in my squad, I would not change them, I would go with them till the end.

"If anyone is responsible it's me. This is sport, there is no point in punishing ourselves."

Luis Enrique also had words of praise for Sarabia, Soler and Busquets for having the courage to take a spot-kick in front of an intimidating pro-Morocco support at Education City Stadium.

He added: "We created enough chances to win the match but the end [the shoot-out] was not a lottery.

"You have to control yourself and be brave in managing that. I would select the same players to do it. Sarabia, Soler and Busquets were great, they missed, no problem, it's part of the sport."

Luis Enrique was gracious in defeat, praising Morocco's overall performance, but reserved special words for goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays his club football for Sevilla.

Bounou saved the efforts of Soler and Busquets while Sarabia hit the post having gone first, leaving Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi to win it for Morocco to put them into the quarter-finals for the first time.

"Bounou was the man of the match and he's a top goalkeeper," added the former Barcelona boss.

"He's a great person as I know first hand. He was decisive in the shoot-out and deserved to be the man of the match."

Sergio Busquets says now is not the time to discuss his international future after Spain crashed out of the World Cup in "the most cruel way" with a defeat to Morocco on penalties.

La Roja lost the shoot-out 3-0 at Education City Stadium following a goalless round-of-16 encounter on Tuesday, with the Atlas Lions reaching the last eight for the first time.

Spain captain Busquets, Pablo Sarabia and Carlos Soler were unable to find the back of the net from 12 yards out, goalkeeper Yassine Bounou producing heroics for Morocco.

To add insult to injury, it was the Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi who scored the winning spot-kick.

Luis Enrique's side dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge, with Sarabia hitting the post right at the end of extra-time.

At the age of 34, it has been suggested Busquets could call time on his Spain career, but the Barcelona midfielder will not rush into a decision following a stunning exit in Doha.

He told La1: "Now the important thing is the team and not me, it's a difficult night and we will have to get up and use this experience, there are very young people who will be very useful and we must continue."

Busquets felt Spain were unfortunate to miss out on a place in the quarter-finals.

"It was a shame, it was decided on penalties in the most cruel way. It was complicated, we tried to wear them down, turn them around, find spaces. We lacked luck from the last pass." he said.

Goalkeeper Unai Simon also felt Spain deserved to go through.

He said: "I think that in the 120 minutes of the game we have been superior, but what I say now is of little value if we don't score.

"In the penalty shoot-out they have been superior and that is what has made them reach the quarter-finals

"We are seeing that there are surprises throughout the World Cup, we have not been able to overcome it and we did not expect to be eliminated against Morocco, but it is the reality and we have to go home."

Luis Enrique believes it is "not the right time" to discuss his future after Spain slumped to a shock World Cup exit against Morocco, saying he could yet stay on as La Roja's head coach.

Spain arrived in Qatar as one of the tournament favourites, but La Roja suffered a second consecutive last-16 elimination via a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw at Education City Stadium.

Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all failed to convert as Morocco ran out 3-0 winners in the shoot-out, with the latter duo seeing their efforts saved by Yassine Bounou.

Spain have now lost four of their five penalty shoot-outs at the World Cup, more than any other side in the history of the tournament, with their latest loss throwing the future of Luis Enrique – whose contract is set to expire after the competition – into doubt.

However, the former Barcelona boss says he will take time to consider his future, adding he is happy with the support he has received from the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

Asked whether he would stay on after the game, he responded: "I cannot tell you, I don't know this decision. This is not the right time to discuss my future, it's not relevant. 

"My contract is going to end, but I am very happy with the national team, with the federation, and I have always had great support from [Jose Francisco] Molina, who is the sporting director. 

"I could always carry on. I need to have peace of mind to decide what's best for me and the team."

Luis Enrique initially led Spain from July 2018 to June 2019 before stepping aside for "family reasons" that were later confirmed to relate to his young daughter suffering with cancer. She died in August 2019.

He returned to the role that November, leading Spain to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and to the 2020-21 Nations League final, where they were beaten by France.

Spain's failure to score a single penalty in Tuesday's shoot-out made them just the second team to do so in World Cup history, after Switzerland against Ukraine in 2006.

Spain's bid to reach their first World Cup quarter-final since 2010 ended in frustration and failure on Tuesday as they missed all of their spot-kicks in a penalty-shoot out defeat to Morocco.

After 120 minutes of goalless domination, in which they racked up 1019 passes, Luis Enrique's side capitulated in the shoot-out with Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missing, the latter two efforts saved by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

It left Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi with the chance to win it which he did with a Panenka to send Morocco through to the last eight for the first time.


Gavi will be the youngest player since Pele to start in a World Cup knockout game when he takes to the field for Spain against Morocco.

Luis Enrique's team go head to head with Morocco at Education City in a last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Barcelona midfielder Gavi started all three of Spain's Group E matches and that trend continued as he was named in Luis Enrique's starting XI.

At the age of 18 years and 123 days, he will be the youngest player to feature from the start of a World Cup knockout match since Brazil great Pele (aged 17 years and 249 days) in the 1958 final.

Pele scored twice in that match as Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 to win the first of five world titles.

Walid Regragui is targeting a history-making victory over Spain as he insisted his Morocco team have put any negativity behind them.

Morocco have been one of the surprise packages of the World Cup in Qatar, with the Atlas Lions shocking Belgium on their way to winning Group F, which also included 2018 runners-up Croatia.

Regragui has done an impressive job since taking over in August, with an own goal against Canada in the group stage the only time his side have conceded during his tenure.

Morocco last reached the knockout stage of a World Cup in 1986, when they lost to West Germany.

They will have to beat a European heavyweight in the form of Spain to make the last eight for the first time in their history.

The countries met in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, with Iago Aspas' late goal denying Morocco victory in a feisty 2-2 draw in Kaliningrad.

"Revenge? No, we're not seeking revenge at all," Regragui said when asked about that game. "We're not looking at the past, we’ve got a new generation and for me the mentality has to change, the negative aspects are the old Morocco.

"It's not the same team as in 2018, not the same Spain team as in 2018. It's two high-level teams coming up against each other. I don't even think we should be talking about revenge."

Spain and Morocco have a complicated relationship, politically and socially, and asked if this was the most important game in Morocco's history, Regragui replied: "I hope in the future there will be more important games, hopefully in the quarter-finals.

"We can't change what happened against Germany in 1986. We've got 24 hours to prepare for the game, make history and be the only ones to do so in Morocco.

"We are going to give it our all and not have any regrets. We don't want to leave the competition with regrets."

Morocco are the only African or Arabian team left in the tournament following the elimination of Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but Regragui does not believe that adds extra pressure.

"On the contrary, we don't have anything to lose. We will come out swinging, with a winning attitude, to hoist the Moroccan flag high," he said.

"We want to make all Arabs and Africans happy and we want their prayers and support to give us that extra ingredient. Before it was just Moroccans, now we will add the Arabs and Africans with their support and prayers.

"There will be millions of people watching. We don't want any regrets, we want to give the best of ourselves. 

"My work is to find the balance. It's not about doing too much to minimise that they could pull off something beautiful. We shouldn't go out with any complex, yes we are the underdog but we should go out and play without regrets.

"We've united Moroccans behind this team – that's the biggest victory we could have."

Gavi is retaining faith in Spain's style of player even if the impressive teenage star knows La Rojo must learn from the mistakes made against Japan when they face Morocco in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Spain were on course to top Group E when Alvaro Morata headed an early opener on Wednesday, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka helped the Samurai Blue leapfrog their opponents in stunning fashion.

For three incredible minutes, Spain even looked set to join Germany in making an early exit as Costa Rica briefly occupied second place.

Spain ultimately survived despite seeing their seven-match unbeaten run (excluding shoot-outs) at the World Cup halted, and Gavi says Tuesday's game represents a chance to right some wrongs.

"The match against Japan has to serve as a lesson for what is to come. Luckily, that defeat has been resolved and we are clear about what we have to do," Gavi told 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."

Spain completed 2,489 passes in their group-stage campaign, their most at a single tournament on record (since 1966), while their tally of 969 passes against Japan was a record for a losing team at the tournament.

While Morocco showed their counter-attacking quality to claim four points from games against Croatia and Belgium, Gavi believes Spain must stick to their principles.

"We are not going to lose focus on the goal, which is to win the World Cup," he added. 

"We are going to look for it by being faithful to what we have been doing all these years. It would be a mistake to give up everything we believe in."

Morocco are featuring in the knockout stages of a World Cup for just the second time, having been beaten at this stage by West Germany in 1986.

The Atlas Lions are chasing a slice of history on Tuesday, when they could match the longest unbeaten run managed by an African side at the World Cup – currently Cameroon's five-game sequence between 1982 and 1990.

After a 2-1 win over Canada ensured Morocco topped Group F, coach Walid Regragui called for his side to aim high.

"We didn't come just to say 'oh, we almost got close'," he said. "We need to get the results as all the European or South American teams do. We need to emulate them."


Morocco – Hakim Ziyech 

While Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd are likely to be busy in the Morocco backline, Regragui's men will carry a threat at the other end – chiefly through Chelsea creator Ziyech.

Ziyech has played more passes into the box (17) and created more chances (4) than any other Morocco player at the World Cup, as well as leading his team-mates for ball carries (43) and combined distance carried (477.6 metres).

While Ziyech's counter-attacking prowess is clear, he also scored his first World Cup goal last time out, and the 29-year-old could be a thorn in Spain's side.

Spain – Alvaro Morata

While Barcelona playmakers Gavi and Pedri have stolen the headlines for Spain in Qatar, fine margins can often decide knockout games – and Morata's contribution could be key. 

Though maligned by some, Morata has been consistent in front of goal at this tournament, hitting the net on each of his three appearances despite playing a total of just 126 minutes.

Morata started two of Spain's three knockout games at Euro 2020 last year, and if he can reward Luis Enrique's faith with another goal, he will join David Villa as just the second Spanish player to score in four consecutive World Cup matches.


Spain have never lost in their three previous meetings with Morocco (W2 D1), and Opta's prediction model makes them strong favourites to advance to the last eight, giving them a 61.3 per cent chance of victory.

However, Morocco did claim a 2-2 draw in the teams' only previous World Cup contest in 2018, and a repeat – which would mean extra-time and potentially penalties – is given a 24 per cent chance. 

The Atlas Lions have provided one of the great underdog stories of this tournament, but their chances of an historic victory are rated at just 14.7 per cent, making them big outsiders.

Spain coach Luis Enrique is refusing to look at the negatives from his side's loss to Japan, instead pointing to how well La Roja played across their World Cup group stage games.

Japan beat Spain 2-1 on Thursday to secure top spot in Group E, setting up a last-16 tie with Croatia while also condemning Germany to an early exit.

Spain had 82.3 per cent of the possession and attempted 1,058 passes to Japan's 228, and had 12 shots, with five hitting the target.

However, Spain's efforts only accumulated to 1.04 expected goals (xG), whereas Japan's six attempts added up to a combined xG of 1.45, with Ritsu Doan and Junya Ito scoring in the space of three second-half minutes.

If reports in the Spanish media are to be believed, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique might be replaced as Spain boss after the World Cup, but ahead of Tuesday's last-16 tie with Morocco, he has full conviction in his approach.

"We are talking about 270 minutes if I'm not wrong, plus added time [in the group stage]," Luis Enrique said in a press conference when he was asked if his team failed to recover from setbacks during matches. 

"Out of 300 minutes in total, you focus on 10 minutes that you didn't like. As far as we progress, you will see more of these minutes.

"We are footballers and the opponents also play. There are things to be improved, and I'm sure we will be bitten by Morocco in some moments of the game.

"We can't take blows? What about them? Did Germany take it well when we scored? We are in a competition where the score dictates the risk you are willing to take.

"Other teams pull back but we keep attacking and of course we need to improve that."

Asked if his team lacked the experience required to see out spells of pressure, Luis Enrique replied: "It's such a cliche, we have to try and get rid of this idea.

"I don't believe they lacked experience. Experience in what? Being builders, carpenters? When you lose, people talk about issues and if you win, they don't.

"I don't share this analysis. This team will be recognised by the way we play, analyse our matches, our philosophy but not these sorts of issues.

"Mistakes happen, we are talking about a very complex, unfair sport, 11 players on a huge field, it's impossible to control all the aspects.

"At the end of the day the ones making the decisions are the players, I want them to implement my idea and I want them to buy the whole package when they lose, it's not fair to only buy it when we win."

Spain have only made it beyond the round of 16 once at the last four World Cups, when they went on to win the trophy in South Africa in 2010. This record, though, is of no concern to Luis Enrique.

"This is not our usual trend, to look at everything from a negative perspective," he said.

"I am not concerned about those results. I want to control the things I can control as a coach. I want my team to play in a certain way, I want my players to forget about the result.

"Football is not fair but if you have more merit you usually win the game. I am convinced we will have more merit than Morocco. Our objective was to play seven games, so we want to play seven games."

Spain midfielder Pedri believes their loss to Japan has been a wake-up call for their World Cup campaign ahead of their last-16 tie with Morocco on Monday.

La Roja missed out on top spot in Group E after a shock defeat to the Samurai Blue, but still qualified after Germany beat Costa Rica elsewhere at Qatar 2022.

Having been firm favourites to top the pile and secure a more favourable knockout round tie, Luis Enrique's side will instead face Morocco after their own surprise campaign.

But with no safety net now going forward, Pedri says Spain are more than aware that there will be no second chances after suffering the unexpected defeat.

"We have realised all matches or life and death," he told Sport. "The last game was a tough match. It was a hard blow – we didn't expect that result against Japan.

"Luckily, we have another opportunity. But if we go missing for 10 minutes, if you disconnect, you go home. If they score, it can be the only one they need."

At one point during their final Group E game, Spain looked set to miss out on the knockouts entirely, with Costa Rica instead set to go through as they led Germany.

Pedri revealed he was not able to focus on matters elsewhere after he discovered La Roja could be going out, instead attempting to ensure Spain turned their game around instead.

"I was looking at the scoreboard," he added. "When I saw Costa Rica were second, and we were out, I was trying to look for the goal.

"I didn't realise Germany had took the lead, and we were second again. I was in anguish throughout the game."

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou says Spain will force his side to raise their level after they reached the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time.

The Atlas Lions reached the knockout rounds after an unbeaten Group F campaign in which they held 2018 finalists Croatia to a draw and shocked Belgium, before sealing top spot with victory over Canada.

Their reward is a tie with La Roja, themselves reeling from the surprise of qualifying second out of Group E after Japan snatched victory against them in their final game, in the process eliminating Germany.

While his team have already written their place in national sporting folklore, Bounou knows that something truly special is on the line when the pair meet in Al Rayyan on Tuesday.

"We've already made history by reaching the last 16, but we want more," he stated. "To eliminate Spain, that would create history in this World Cup, and in our country's footballing story.

"We want to make our people happy. We are thoroughly prepared. We have got better and better with each passing game, and I'm sure we'll be in good shape."

Amid a World Cup that has already delivered shock results, Morocco's victory over Belgium remains a major one – but Bounou, who plays his club career in LaLiga with Sevilla, knows Luis Enrique's side will be a different beast.

"Spain will force us to be at our best," he added. "It's a very competitive game, one which will come down to the finer details. We have to be prepared for that."

FIFA has defended the VAR verdict that saw Japan score a controversial goal against Spain, knocking Germany out of the World Cup in the process.

The video assistant referee ruled there was nothing wrong with Japan's winner in Thursday's game, scored by Ao Tanaka.

Television replays cast some doubt on that decision, with Kaoru Mitoma crossing from a position where, from certain angles, the ball looked to have run off the pitch.

Tanaka bundled the ball over the line, and a drawn-out VAR review ruled Brighton and Hove Albion player Mitoma had kept the ball in play.

On Friday, FIFA blamed "misleading images" for appearing to point to the ball having fully left the boundaries of the pitch.

The world governing body insisted its VAR integrity was as watertight as could be, with the video evidence it presented showing the whole of the ball had not crossed the dead-ball line, even though almost all of it had.

Such replays had been a long time in coming, critics said, with a number of broadcast pundits questioning on Thursday why such forensic images were not shown during the game coverage, if they were made available to the VAR.

FIFA's statement, issued on Twitter, read: "Japan's second goal in their 2-1 win over Spain was checked by VAR to determine if the ball had gone out of play. The video match officials used the goal line camera images to check if the ball was still partially on the line or not.

"Other cameras may offer misleading images but on the evidence available, the whole of the ball was not out of play."

The outcome of the game means Spain go forward to face Morocco in the last-16 stage, while Japan, as Group E winners, will take on Croatia, who were runners-up in Group F.

Four-time champions Germany exited the tournament because of Japan's 2-1 win, with their own 4-2 success over Costa Rica proving nothing more than a consolation.

Goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka helped Japan reach the World Cup last 16 as Group E winners with a remarkable 2-1 victory over Spain, with La Roja joining them as Germany were dumped out.

With both sides knowing a win would see them advance, Spain wasted little time in hitting the front as Alvaro Morata headed beyond Shuichi Gonda for his third goal of the tournament early on.

However, Spain failed to capitalise on their huge dominance of possession as Japan turned the game on its head with a quickfire second-half double, Doan firing home from range before Tanaka bundled in a second.

Spain were briefly on their way out of the World Cup when Costa Rica took the lead against Germany in the group's other fixture.

But Germany's late comeback in a 4-2 win ensured La Roja survived an incredible finale to go through as runners-up.

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