Spain needed at least a draw to ensure their progress to the knockout rounds and they did just that in a 2-2 draw against Morocco on Monday (June 25) but that outcome could have been very different.
Morocco twice took the lead through Khalid Boutaib and Youssef En-Nesyri and will have been heartbroken to have victory snatched from their grasp by VAR in injury time as the initial offside decision for Iago Aspas' goal was overturned.
Despite Spain having more to play for it was the already eliminated Moroccans who played with greater fire and desire, but the 2010 World Cup champions simply had too much quality all over the pitch even while stuck in second gear.
Here's the lowdown for the game:
1. THE GOALS
Spain 2 (Isco 19th, Aspas 90th) Morocco 2 (Boutaib 14th, En-Nesyri 80th)
2. THE WOW MOMENT
Andres Iniesta's mazy, mesmerising run did most of the work for goal-scorer Isco as Spain responded to the early shock almost immediately with the equaliser. The 34-year-old's contract with Japanese club Vissel Kobe begins in a few days on July 1 but many will be wondering if Iniesta does not have one or two more good years left in him at the top level after this vintage performance.
3. THE TALKING POINT
In a near-unbelievable series of coincidences, VAR provided two pivotal moments almost simultaneously in the two Group B matches. For this game, it was Iago Aspas' cheeky flick in injury time that was awarded after initially being ruled out for offside. In the span of two minutes we went from Portugal comfortably winning the group to Spain taking top spot instead, with some significant ramifications for both teams.
4. THE STAR
It was hard to pick a star for this one, as Morocco's excellence stemmed from the cohesiveness of their team play and collective fighting spirit while Spain again flattered to deceive despite a mouth-watering array of talent in their line-up. The obvious cop-out option would be to nominate VAR as the star but that would be an insult to the actual football being played.
5. WHAT THE RESULT MEANS
Spain have topped Group B on a goals scored tiebreaker and will face tournament hosts Russia in the round-of-16. Portugal finished level with Spain on five points but having scored fewer goals they have had to settle for the runner-up spot and a meeting with Uruguay - who have yet to concede a goal - in the next round. Morocco, perhaps undeservedly for all their fine play, end their World Cup bottom of Group B with one point.