Morocco defeated Canada 2-1 in its last FIFA World Cup Group F game at a rocking Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday. The North Africans, who made the l;ast 16 round after a gap of 36 years, were helped by a goalkeeping howler, a lapse that helped Moroccons through to the last 16.
Precisely, Morocco was gifted a goal in the fourth minute after Canadian skipper Milan Borjan came out to clear the ball only to put it right onto the foot of Hakim Ziyech who coolly lobbed it over the stranded Canadian into a gaping net. Youssef En-Nesyri doubled the lead in the 23rd minute when he ran onto a long ball from Achraf Hakimi and hammered a low drive into the corner.
Canada, who had already been knocked out, pulled one back in the 40th minute from an own goal as Nayef Aguerd deflected in Sam Adekugbe’s cross. It was the third consecutive defeat for Canada in as many matches. The only consolation the Canadians had was that they scored in the second successive game. In six FIFA World Cup games since 1986, Canada has not lodged even a single point and has lost all six games. Today, in its last game, the Canadians did try hard, at least for a draw as even the goalkeeper joined the attacking line but could not get past the spirited Moroccan defence.
The North Africans played the game of their lives as only a win would have taken them to the knockout round. And they did it. For Morocco it is their first appearance in the round of 16 since 1986.
Croatia also eased into the last 16 of the World Cup after holding a stuttering Belgium to a 0-0 draw in another group F match on Thursday, sending their European rivals’ ‘golden generation’ – Belgium – out of the tournament with barely a whimper. The result saw Zlatko Dalic’s men qualify in second place in Group F behind Morocco, who beat already eliminated Canada 2-1 in the other game to secure top spot. Belgium needed an outright win to stay in the contest but it could not do better than holding their European rivals to a goalless draw.
Morocco won gwo games and drew the third while Croatia won one, drew two others to finish ahead of Belgium that had a win, a draw and a loss in its three group games. The fourth team in the group, Canada, lost all the three games.