Ziyech and En-Nesyri send Morocco to the World Cup round of 16 while Canada’s campaign ends.
Morocco advanced to the World Cup knockout stage with a 2-1 win over Canada on Thursday.
Youssef En-Nesyri extended their lead in the 23rd minute with a strong finish after Hakim Ziyech’s opening. Nayef Aguerd’s own goal gave Canada a halftime lead.
Canada were the superior team in the second half, and Atiba Hutchinson’s header hit the bar and subsequently the line. They leave with zero points but many of admirers for their displays and ambition.
Morocco tops Group F and equals their highest World Cup finish after reaching the round of 16 in 1986.
1. Morocco’s stars perform well
Morocco needed their big talents to shine as they neared their second World Cup knockout round. Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui were exceptional. Ziyech’s trickery and En-barnstorming Nesyri’s runs followed.
Hakimi and Mazraoui could be the best full-back tandem at this World Cup. Mazraoui is playing on the left despite being a right-back. Hakimi’s assist for En-first-half Nesyri’s goal was superb, and they kept Canada at bay. Mazrouai and Hakimi worked well to close down Alphonso Davies’ half gaps, nullifying any potential danger with the ball at his feet.
Ziyech’s opener was well-judged. The goal was gaping as Canada goalie Milan Borjan planted the ball at Ziyech’s feet beyond his 18-yard box. Ziyech chipped in from 35 yards out. Some players worry and blow the chance when it seems easy.
En-Nesyri missed two first-half goals. Hakimi’s soaring through pass allowed En-Nesyri to take his first superbly. Physicality, pace, and finesse allowed him to set himself and shoot past Borjan with one touch. Aguerd had the ball in the net again before halftime, but the assistant referee ruled him offside and in Borjan’s line of sight.
2. Next opponent shouldn’t frighten Atlas Lions
In Qatar, Morocco’s 2022 class could make history. They’ll likely face Germany or Japan in the round of 16, and based on how they beat Belgium and the first half of this game, they can reach the quarterfinals.
They’ll need to improve. Third-quarter passivity gave Canada too much possession. Aguerd’s effort to block a cross resulted in Canada’s first-half goal.
Atiba Hutchinson’s header hit the crossbar, rebounded down, touched the line, and then was headed over the goal. If they want to improve on their round-of-16 World Cup finish, they must eliminate errors and gaps in concentration.
To make history and reach the last eight, they must mix the intensity, attention, and set-piece brilliance of the Belgium win with the transitional quality we saw against Canada for the second goal, when Hakimi’s wonderful pass created a goal-scoring chance.
Then there’s their fanbase. They had Al Thumama rocking from the start, and as beautiful as it must be to have that cacophonous shout behind you, it must be scary for the opposition.
3. Canada’s election will be bittersweet
John Herdman said Canada has six World Cup goals. He asked them to be “fearless” and “entertain” in order to score Canada’s first World Cup goal. He wants the team to “maintain a clean sheet” and “win.” Judge them by their own standards. Two goals is a win. They played Belgium and Croatia fearlessly. Alphonso Davies’ goal against Croatia was amazing. They came in fourth.
They were eliminated before their last group match. This match was nevertheless important, especially since they’ll be co-hosts in 2026. The men’s team had lost all three group matches in 1986 and were 0-2 into this match. They played bravely and were unlucky not to steal a point from Belgium. They fell 4-1 to the 2018 finalists, despite Herdman’s brazen claim they’d “F Croatia.” Maybe this was the game they made Canadian history.
No dice. They tried hard, but after Ziyech’s goal they were chasing shadows. They had greater second-half possession, but Hutchinson’s header went wide. Canada could have gotten the “result” they wanted with a different bounce and more conviction.
More in Sports: https://buzzing.today/sports/
Photo Credits: https://www.gettyimages.com/