Spain, who like to pass, bow sheepishly when forced to shoot.

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – The noise built, rising from harsh to deafening and beyond until it became something all-encompassing, vaguely elemental. Also the tension as Morocco got ever closer to what seemed almost impossible.

Spain missed a penalty. Spain missed another penalty. Spain missed a third. Suddenly, after two exhausting, grueling hours, Morocco was on the brink. A place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, his best performance at the tournament so far, was within reach. The pressure and the noise became almost unbearable.

At that point, Achraf Hakimi – born in Spain, who had spent all his childhood in Spain and who could have played for Spain in another world – stepped forward and took the softest and most skillful penalty imaginable, nothing more than one silky, light touch of the ball, a moment of utter calm before chaos erupted.

Spain’s defeat on penalties after a 0-0 draw was fitting in many ways. For all his talent, for all his possession dominance, he had rarely seemed to know how to score in the past two hours. Álvaro Morata shot over the goal from an impossible angle. He struggled to get a header. Dani Olmo had boxed away a speculative free-kick from Yassine Bounou. It was no surprise that Spain failed to score the necessary penalties.

As the game reached its closing stages, Rodri, a defensive midfielder who was used as a central defender in the tournament, actually rushed forward from 35 meters and shot. It was something of an admission of defeat, an admission that Spain had officially run out of ideas.

Opportunities didn’t come often, but when they did, it was in Morocco. Nayef Aguerd headed wide in the first half; twice in extra time, Walid Cheddira, a striker brought in by Italian second division club Bari and coming on as a substitute, found himself face-to-face. The first time he shot straight at Unai Símon, Spain goalkeeper. In the second he was closed by Rodri at the last second.

Spain might have clinched victory with the final shot of the game, Pablo Sarabia grazing the post, but by that point it was becoming abundantly clear that Luis Enrique’s side didn’t know how to score. Punishments brought no improvement. Spain missed all three and there was Hakimi, the coolest man in the mess, putting Morocco over the line. Spain, who like to pass, bow sheepishly when forced to shoot.

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