Fancied Spain eliminated from Olympic football tournament without scoring a goal
Pre-tournament favourites Spain have embarrassingly bowed out of the men’s Olympic football competition without a goal to their name.
A month ago their compatriots retained their European Championship crown to add to World Cup glory, but this has been a few days to forget for coach Luis Milla’s side.
The goalless draw with Morocco, in front of a crowd of 35,973 at Manchester United’s Old Trafford, also ended the faint hopes of the north Africans, leaving Japan and Honduras as the surprise qualifiers from Group D.
The opening 45 minutes was an even affair, albeit devoid of many notable chances and punctuated towards the end by a torrential downpour.
Morocco’s Abdelaziz Barrada fired through the six-yard box from close range in the 27th minute when it appeared easier to hit the target.
That was followed four minutes later by Spain’s best opportunity when Chelsea’s Juan Mata played in Adrian Lopez inside the area, only for the Atletico Madrid striker to hit the post.
On the hour, Morocco should have taken the lead, but Barrada’s low shot when clean through struck the inside of advancing Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea’s right knee.
Then Spain had four chances in seven minutes, but a Mata drive wide and a volley over from six yards sandwiched Lopez laughingly scuffing a one-on-one effort, whilst Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu saw Abdelatif Noussir clear his header off the line.
Late on, Spain nearly had salt rubbed into their wounds, however Zakaria Labyad blazed a volley over from point-blank range.
Asked as to how he felt at his side’s failure to score in four-and-a-half hours of football, Milla said: 'Frustrated. It’s a desperate situation. It’s more about the elimination in general we have to think about.
'We’ve played a recognisable way, created chances, and if we had taken just some of them we would have had a minimum of six points and it would have been very different.
'We came here with great expectations for the tournament, perhaps we were lacking a little in preparation.
'We had a difficult game against Japan, and perhaps bad luck has added to that in the last two games.'
Morocco coach Pim Verbeek refused to blame Ramadan for his side’s exit, with a number of players fasting throughout the day to honour their Muslim religion.
'It was very unusual, with some of my players eating at 8pm and another group at 9.30pm, so not eating together,' said Verbeek.
'You could see at the end of games they lost power, but that’s not an excuse.
'I have to say I’m very proud of the boys and the way they have performed at the same period as Ramadan.
'We created enough chances to score goals, not only today, but also against Honduras and Japan.'