The Atlas Lions of Morocco defeated Canada 2-1 to finish top of Group F in Thursday’s Qatar 2022 World Cup game.
This is the first time the North Africans have qualified for the round of 16 since Mexico 1986.
First half goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri gave Morocco a deserved 2-0 lead before an own goal by Nayef Aguerd reduced the deficit.
Morocco took the lead in the 4th minute through Ziyech who lopped the Canadian keeper after the North American shot stopper’s poor clearance.
In the 23rd minute En-Nesyri doubled Morocco’s lead after he ran on to a long pass from Achraf Hakimi and volleyed past the Canadian keeper.
With five minutes left Canada pulled a goal back thanks to an own goal by Aguerd who diverted Sam Adekugbe’s low cross from the left past his keeper and into the net.
In first half stoppage time En-Nesyri had the ball in the back of the net off a set piece by Ziyech but the goal was chalked off for offside.
The Canadians threw everything in the second half but could not break down a resolute Moroccan side who held on to advance.
And in the group’s other fixture, Belgium crashed out after playing a goalless draw with Croatia.
Belgium had a lucky escape in the first half after a penalty decision was later overturned by the referee after consultations with VAR.
Romelu Lukaku, who came on in the second half, could have won it for the Belgians but was guilty of unpardonable misses.
Lukaku had the chance to put Belgium ahead after Yannick Carrasco’s effort was block, but the Inter striker saw his shot hit the post.
He was presented with another opportunity off a cross with an open net in front of him but chested the ball back to the recovering Croatian keeper.
Again he missed what would have been the opener as he failed to divert a cross towards goal from close range.
The last time Belgium failed to make it out of the group stage was at France 1998 World Cup.
And at the end of the group games, Morocco finished on seven points, Croatia on five, Belgium got four while Canada did not get any point.
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