Gavi knows that the masters of the pass have to learn from shocked Japan

Gavi continues to believe in the Spanish player’s style, although the impressive teenage star knows La Rojo must learn from his mistakes against Japan when they face Morocco in the round of 16 of the World Cup.

Spain were on course for top spot in Group E when Alvaro Morata headed in on Wednesday, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka helped Samurai Blue surge from their opponents in stunning fashion.

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

Spain ultimately survived despite having their seven-match unbeaten run (excluding penalties) at the World Cup ended, and Gavi says Tuesday’s match presents an opportunity to right some wrongs.

“The match against Japan should serve as a lesson for what’s to come. Luckily that defeat has been resolved and we have clear ideas on what we have to do,” Gavi told Marca.

“We’re in the round of 16 and there are some very good teams who haven’t managed to make it. That’s why we really have to think that pressure is a privilege.”

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

While Morocco showed their quality on the counter-attack by picking up four points against Croatia and Belgium, Gavi believes Spain should stick to their principles.

“We will not lose focus on the goal, which is to win the World Cup,” he added.

“We will seek it by staying true to what we have done all these years. It would be a mistake to give up everything we believe in.”

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

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

After a 2-1 win over Canada lifted Morocco from Group F, manager Walid Regragui asked his side to aim high.

“We didn’t come just to say ‘oh, we almost went,'” she said. “We have to get the results like all European or South American teams do. We have to emulate them.”


Morocco – Hakim Ziyech

While Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd are likely to be busy in the Moroccan defence, Regragui’s men will pose a threat on the other side, especially through Chelsea creator Ziyech.

Ziyech played more passes into the box (17) and created more chances (4) than any other Moroccan player at the World Cup, as well as leading his teammates in ball movements (43) and total distance covered (477.6 metres) . .

While Ziyech’s counter-attacking prowess is evident, 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 stole the headlines for Spain in Qatar, thin margins can often decide knockout matches and Morata’s input could be key.

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

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


Spain have never lost in their previous three meetings with Morocco (W2 D1) and Opta’s prediction model makes them heavy favorites to progress to the quarter-finals, giving them a 61.3% chance of winning.

However, Morocco managed a 2-2 draw in their only previous World Cup fixture in 2018, and a replay – which would mean extra time and potentially penalties – has a 24% chance.

The Atlas Lions have provided one of the big underdog stories this tournament, but their chances of a historic win are rated at just 14.7%, making them big underdogs.

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