Whenever a game is stretched to the lottery of the Penalty shoot-outs, teams look to their goalkeepers to stop opposition spot kicks and boost their chances of victory.
On Tuesday night, Morroco goalkepeer Yaccine Bounou and Spain’s Unai Simon hugged each other as they walked towards the post for the start of the shootout.
With a place in the Quater-final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as prize for the winners of the shootouts, both La Liga goalkepeers understood it was their opportunity to get on the headlines.
Yaccine Bounou was perfect on the night. Apart from keeping a clean sheet over 120 minutes vs Spain to secure a 0-0 regulation and extra-time score , Bono as he is also known as emerged from the shoot-outs with a clean sheet.
In the shoot-out, Spain’s first kicker Pablo Sarabia rattled the woodwork, with a full stretched Bounou on guard.
Bounou saved from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets, while Morroco scored three of their four kicks to reach the Quater Final with a 3-0 shootout victory.
That will consign Spain to their second successive exit on penalties from the World Cup masterminded by Spanish products. Yaccine Bounou with the saves and Madrid-boy Hakimi with the winning kick.
WHO IS YACCINE BOUNOU
Yaccine Bounou was born in April 1991 to Morrocan parents in Canada.
The 31year old goalkepeer has spent virtually all his career in Spain and sure understands a lot about their football.
He began his career in Morroco with Wydad Casablanca where he wasn’t an established member of the squad with just 11 appearances from 2010-2012.
In 2012, Bounou made the switch to Spain with Athletico Madrid B. It is in Spain that the shotstopper blossomed into one of the best in his position.
The Morrocan goalie was sent out on loan by Athletico Madrid in 2014 to Real Zaragoza where he enjoyed game time to secure a transfer to Girona in 2016.
In 2019, Bounou arrived at current club Sevilla, first on loan from Girona before a permanent transfer in 2020.
In the 2019/2020 season, Yaccine Bounou was instrumental to Sevilla’s UEFA Europa league title win and was named in the team of the tournament.
Keen followers of his performances for Sevilla will not be surprised of his 2022 FIFA World Cup exploits.
The Spainish players including experienced skipper Sergio Busquets were aware of Bounou’s shootout expertise and that may have contributed to their failure from 18yards.
Helping Morroco to a first ever FIFA World Cup Quater-final will certainly boost his rating when he returns to Seville but his Spanish fans would have preferred Unai Simon in Bounou’s place as the hero.
WHAT BOUNOU SAID AFTER THE WIN OVER SPAIN
“On behalf of all the players, I want to thank the fans who helped us in this task. I congratulate all the players and I offer this gift to all the Moroccan people.”
“You know penalties, it’s a little bit of intuition, a little bit of luck,” Bounou told reporters after the game. “We won, that’s the most important thing. Hats off to the whole team – they did the job. It was incredible.
“It’s not easy to stay focused for 120 minutes, against a Spanish team that dominates the ball well, who has possession.
“When you live moments like this, sometimes it’s hard to realise it. We will try to avoid the noise around us, stay focused on ourselves, on our job, our recovery.”
WHAT NEXT FOR BOUNOU AND MORROCO
Unbeaten Morroco will face Portugal in the Quater-final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Another big game, Bounou and his Morrocan teammates know that a win over Portugal will book a first ever World Cup Semi Final spot for an African Country.
A date with history awaits and another perfect night for Yaccine Bounou will be key to the aspiration of the Atlas Lions and the African continent at large.
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Can Morroco defeat Portugal to become the first African nation in a FIFA World Cup Semi-final ?