Morocco overtakes Canada to advance to World Cup round of 16

Morocco reached the round of 16 of the World Cup for the first time in 36 years on Thursday with a 2-1 victory over eliminated Canada.

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Goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesiri lifted the North Africans into first place in Group F, ahead of 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia.

Morocco, which last qualified for the World Cup play-offs in 1986, will face the Round of 16 Group E runners-up, with opponents to be named later on Thursday.

Canada’s defeat, meanwhile, ended a disappointing World Cup for the CONCACAF side, who withdrew after losing all three group games after a long-awaited return to the final.

Morocco are firmly on course for the second round after thrashing Belgium 2-0 on Sunday, leaving them just a point against Canada on Thursday to be sure of moving forward.

Achieving this goal was never in doubt after the Moroccans took the lead just four minutes later in front of 43,102 fans at Al Tumama Stadium.

Team Canada captain and goaltender Milan Borjan flew out of his line to clear an incomplete pass from Steven Vitoria, but could only watch in horror as the ball landed on Morocco’s Ziyech.

The Chelsea star took advantage of the opportunity ruthlessly, slamming a stuck Borjan in cold blood into an empty net in a 1-0 win.

This early setback terrified Canada, who struggled to gain a foothold against a runaway Morocco, who were soon leading 2–0.

A long pass from right-back Ashraf Hakimi took the Canadian defense by surprise and En-Nesiri darted in from behind and then hit the near post to beat Boryan.

Canada pulled off a goal in a rare run forward five minutes before half time, when defender Sam Adekugbe missed a clean left flank and made a low cross.

Defender Nayef Agerd shot with his foot, and the ball flew into the net past the goalkeeper of the Moroccan national team, Yassin Bounu, and the score became 2:1.

Morocco thought they had regained their two-goal reserve in stoppage time of the first half when En-Nesiri lashed the goal for eight yards only to have the try ruled offside.

Canada started the second half brightly, with Alphonso Davies striking right after a promising attack.

But Morocco sank deeper, and Canada lacked the ingenuity to seriously threaten.

Their best chance for a draw came from a set-piece in the 71st minute, when substitute Atiba Hutchinson head-butted from a corner into the bottom of the crossbar and rebounded off the goal line.

Full-back Alistair Johnston was unable to control the rebound and Morocco maintained the lead.

Canada captain Borjan was once again nearly caught in another risky break in injury time, but Davis was ready to extinguish the danger before the raucous Moroccan fans burst into jubilation on the whistle.