FIFA World Cup 2022: Morocco qualify for knockouts for the first time since 1986
In a group that also included Belgium and Croatia, few would have given the North African nation a chance of topping the group but that is exactly what they did
Morocco sealed the top spot in Group F with a fine 2-1 win over Canada in their final group game to advance to the Round of 16 for only the second time in their history. Goals by Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri gave them the lead before Nayef Aguerd's own goal cut the advantage down to one and that is how it stayed till the end.
In a group that also included world No 2 Belgium and world 12 Croatia, who also finished as runners-up in 2018, few would have given the North African nation a chance of topping the group but that is exactly what they did. It was the first time in 24 years that an African nation topped its group since 1998 when Nigeria did it.
In 1986, they had become the first African nation to top their group and now they have done it again 36 years later.
Their 2-0 win over Belgium set the tone and the win over Canada showed that there is a lot of steel in their line-up. They will now face whoever finishes second in Group E.
The match got off to a good start for the Moroccans thanks to Canada’s goalkeeper Milan Borjan who went out on a walkabout and gave a gentle pass to Ziyech, who did not turn down the gift. A well-controlled chip gave Morocco the lead in the fourth minute.
The lead was doubled in the 23rd minute when En-Nesyri scored with a fine strike, beating Borjan at his near post after running onto a speculative ball and fighting off two defenders.
Morocco didn't want to rest easy though. They made things interesting for themselves with the tournament's first own goal. Aguerd redirected a cross from Sam Adekugbe to the near post and into the bottom corner.
It was the first goal Morocco have conceded in seven games and that is something other teams would have taken note of as well. This is a fast team and they are a very focused team too.