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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Morocco hold on to defeat Canada and win Group F

For the second time in their history the Morocco national team will compete in the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup following a 2-1 victory over Canada in Doha on Thursday. Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri scored in the opening half hour as Morocco took advantage of a nightmare start for already eliminated Canada, holding off a late charge from the Canucks to earn three points and finish atop Group F with seven points. Morocco join group runners-up Croatia in the knockout stage and await the Group E runners-up for a matchup next Thursday.

Despite being eliminated from contention for the next round, Canada were determined to earn a first ever point in their second World Cup appearance but gifted Morocco an early lead the Atlas Lions would not relinquish. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan was forced under pressure by a poor back pass from defender Steven Vitória and an awful first touch went right to Morocco playmaker Hakim Ziyech, who easily lifted a shot over the out of position Borjan for a 4th minute opener.

Morocco compounded the Canadian team’s misery in the 23rd minute when En-Nesyri latched onto a perfect long pass from right back Achraf Hakimi. The Sevilla striker fired a low shot past Borjan to complete a disastrous opening stretch for the Red Star Belgrade shot stopper. Canada managed to play themselves back into the match and cut the deficit in half soon before halftime when left back Sam Adekugbe’s cross deflected off Morocco center back Nayef Aguerd and past keeper Yassine Bounou for an own goal.

En-Nesyri appeared to restore Morocco’s two-goal lead just before halftime but his volleyed goal was ruled out after Aguerd obstructed Borjan while in an offside position. The second half saw Morocco retreat and attempt to hold on for their victory while Canada pushed for an equalizer. Atiba Hutchinson’s powerful header was inches away from leveling the match in the 71st minute but the ball bounced off the goal line and out after crashing off the crossbar, the closest the North American team came to a point in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions ran onto the pitch to celebrate their achievement following the final whistle and will now await a matchup against Spain, Japan, Costa Rica or Germany from Group E. Morocco last qualified for the knockout stage at a World Cup in 1986, winning Group F before falling to West Germany in the Round of 16.

Highlights of the match are in the link below.

Morocco 2-1 Canada Highlights