Morocco beats Canada and returns to the round of 16 of the Cup after 36 years

Moroccan fans had to wait 36 ​​years to see the country’s national team finally go beyond the first phase of a World Cup. This Thursday (1st), the Lions of the Atlas defeated Canada by 2-1, at the Al Thumama Stadium, in Doha, guaranteeing a place in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Qatar.

With the victory, Morocco ended Group F in the lead, with seven points, two ahead of Croatia, current runner-up, who drew 0-0 with Belgium at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, in Al Rayyan. The Canadians say goodbye to zero, in the group’s light. The North American country will be one of the hosts of the next edition, in 2026, alongside the United States and Mexico.

In the round of 16, the same stage in which they said goodbye to the Cup in 1986, Morocco will face the runner-up in Group E, which brings together Spain, Germany, Costa Rica and Japan. The match will take place on Tuesday (6), at 12h (Brasília time), at Estádio Cidade da Educação, in Doha.

The Moroccan coach, Walid Regragui, promoted just one change in the 4-3-3 that defeated Belgium by 2-0, with the entry of Abdelhamid Sabiri, who took the free kick that originated the first goal of the game, in place of the midfielder Selim Amallah. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who lost the last duel when he felt bad moments before the ball rolled, returned to the goal, with Munir El-Kajoui back on the bench.

In Canada, John Herdman made four changes to the team that conceded 4-1 to Croatia, moving from 4-4-2 to 3-4-3. Left-back Sam Adekugbe came on for Richie Laryea, while right-back Alistair Johnston formed the central defense with Kamal Miller and Steven Vitória. In the middle, Junior Hoilett (starter in the 1-0 loss to Belgium), Mark-Antony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio were chosen to replace Atiba Hutchinson, Stephen Eustáquio and striker Jonathan David.

The Atlas Lions repeated the posture of previous games, putting pressure on the attacking field. That’s how, after just three minutes, Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring. After Johnston’s dangerous retreat, goalkeeper Milan Borjan barely cleared the ball, at the feet of the Moroccan striker, who hit it through cover, scoring a great goal.

After about 15 minutes suffering with the intensity of Morocco, Canada seemed to have matched the marking and reduced the spaces of the African team. At 22 minutes, however, full-back Achraf Hakimi found a gap between Miller and Vitória and launched En-Nesyri. The striker outpaced the defenders in speed and shot in Borjan’s left corner, increasing the advantage.

Even slowing down, the Moroccan team was little threatened by the Canadian. No wonder, it was only thanks to an own goal that the Americans scored. In the 40th minute, Adekugbe dribbled past Hakimi on the left and crossed low. Defender Nayef Aguerd stretched to cut, but deflected the ball into his own net. Aguerd himself, offside, even led the Brazilian referee Raphael Claus to invalidate what would be Morocco’s third, from the feet of En-Nesyri, already in stoppage time.

Canada came back better for the second half, keeping the ball more and circling Morocco’s area. The Atlas Lions’ excessive retreat almost resulted in a Canadian goal in the 25th minute. After a corner kick from the right, Hutchinson (who came on after the break, replacing Kayé) headed the crossbar. The ball bounced on the line and, in the spare, Johnston sent it over.

The North American team pressed behind the tie, which would earn the country’s first point in a Cup. In the 41st minute, Bounou almost helped, when he tried to control the ball with his chest and let it escape, inside the area. Striker Alphonso Davies almost took advantage, but the Moroccan goalkeeper recovered. In the final minutes, the Canadians piled up crosses and even Borjan went forward to help the attack, taking corner kicks. The African team, however, contained the pressure and celebrated the historic victory.

Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News