Morocco have warned Spain they will “come out swinging” in a bid to pull off another huge World Cup upset.
The north African side created one of the biggest shocks in the group phase of the tournament in Qatar with their 2-0 victory over Belgium, having already held 2018 finalists Croatia to a goalless draw.
Walid Regragui’s team finished top of their group and now face a Spain side in the last 16 still reeling from their own unexpected setback at the hands of Japan which almost cost them their place in the tournament.
Morocco are likely to enjoy the majority of the support at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan and Regragui believes the Atlas Lions are now playing for the whole of the African continent and the Arab world.
“We will come in with a winner’s attitude, we will come out swinging,” he said.
“We want to hoist our Moroccan flag way up high, first and foremost for us and our country and yes, for all Arabs and Africans – we want to make them happy. We want their prayers and we want their support.
“Spain have a lot of experience, we haven’t been here for 36 years. It’s important for us to put our emotions aside and pull out all the stops. The great nations are here and it’s important for us to give them a run for their money.
“We’ve got 24 hours to prepare and make history. It’s worth a shot. We’re going to give it our all and we don’t want to leave with any regrets.”
Spain coach Luis Enrique gave his team a B+ for their performances at the World Cup so far, with the exception of 15 minutes against Japan where he said they had been “steamrollered”.
He rejected the notion that the defeat to Japan illustrated Spain were too rigid and unwilling to play in a more direct way when necessary.
“I think there is clear misinformation in the world of football,” he said.
“What’s clear is that everyone uses their own weapons. You tell us, when should we go for the long ball? When we know we’re going to lose? No, that doesn’t work in football.
“We do not rule out any action. If we have a situation and we go for a long ball, that’s totally fine. That is something that needs to be interpreted by the footballer on the pitch.
“Any play is open, any action is open. It’s too basic an analysis – I don’t share it, I don’t like it. We will continue playing from the back as we’ve always done.”
He also said it was a “cliche” to suggest it was a lack of experience that had cost his team victory against Germany and led to the upset against Japan.
Put to him that his players had given this as a reason for dropping points against Germany, Luis Enrique added: “We have to try to get rid of these myths and cliches in my opinion.
“First of all I don’t believe (the players) said that – they lacked experience in what? Being builders, carpenters? When you lose people talk about physical issues, when they win, they don’t. I don’t share this analysis.”
The Spain coach also revealed he had told his players over a year ago they needed to practice taking at least 1,000 penalties with their clubs in preparation for any possible shoot-outs in Qatar.
“I don’t think it’s a lottery, it doesn’t just depend on luck,” he added.
“It’s the moment of the highest pressure, you have to show skill and take the penalty. Obviously you cannot train the pressure and the tension, but it’s manageable, you can cope with that pressure and those key moments say a lot about a player. It doesn’t really depend on luck.”