AL RAYYAN – The sheer audacity. The simple execution. And then … delirium.
Achraf Hakimi converted the decisive spot kick for Morocco with a little dink of a shot known as a “Panenka” in a penalty shootout win over Spain to make his team the first Arab country ever to reach the World Cup quarterfinals Tuesday.
Instead of using his full force to strike the ball, Hakimi instead waited for Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón to lunge to his right before lightly pushing the ball into the center of the goal.
“If you’re brave enough to do it, then you can do it,” Morocco midfielder Azzedine Ounahi said. “It doesn’t matter how the ball goes in.”
After watching the ball sail in uncontested, Hakimi performed a little celebratory dance and then added to the playful theme by faking out his onrushing teammates in terms of which area of the field he was going to run to for more celebrations.
Eventually the team caught up to Hakimi and mobbed him.
The penalty kick technique that Hakimi employed is named for Czech player Antonín Panenka, who introduced it to an international audience during the 1976 European Championship final.
Hakimi, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain and is considered Morocco’s most talented player, was born in Madrid to Moroccan parents and spent 10 years in Real Madrid’s youth system. His mom cleaned houses in the Spanish capital and his dad was a street vendor.
“He’s fast, he’s skillful. He gives assists, he scores goals. A panenka in the penalty shootout,” Ounahi said. “So he does everything. (And) he’s a team player.”
Hakimi is one of 14 members of Morocco’s 26-man squad who was born abroad.
Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who was born in Canada and plays for Sevilla in Spain, saved two of Spain’s penalties during the shootout, which Morocco won 3-0 following a 0-0 draw after extra time.
Morocco’s quarterfinal opponent on Saturday will be Portugal.
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf