Morocco beat a poor Canada (1-2) on Wednesday to reach the round of 16 of a World Cup for the second time in its history. They had not succeeded since the 1986 edition, when they finished, as on this occasion, leaders of their group.
An embarrassing mistake by goalkeeper Milan Borjan, taken advantage of by Hakim Ziyech’s silk touch, opened Morocco’s triumph against Canada and allowed the Africans to reach the round of 16 as first in the group.
Ziyech’s goal, after four minutes, plus that of Youssef En-Nesyri, dismantled a Canada that equaled the negative record of El Salvador, as the only team in history that has lost its first six games in the tournament. Canada, at least, took the balm of scoring their first goal in the competition, but they couldn’t even celebrate it properly, as Nayef Aguerd scored an own goal.
For Morocco, who had an eye on Croatia-Belgium, the victory earned them to secure first place and go to the round of 16 as they did in the 1986 World Cup, when they led a group with England, Portugal and Poland, before being eliminated by Germany in the next. Depending on tonight’s results, Morocco could have their revenge against the Germans, as long as they finish second in Group E.
To pave the way for the Moroccans, a very disappointing Canada appeared, for the expectations it had aroused before the tournament, and which blew itself up before minute five. Borjan, in response to a short loan, came out of his cave and from outside the area, instead of clearing under pressure from En-Nesyri, he decided to play low. He got the wrong partner. He gave it to the technically best player in Morocco, a Ziyech who calmly slotted the ball over the goalkeeper.
Canada was lost and Hakimi opened the way for the second with a pass from his half behind the two center backs. En-Nesyri was faster and smarter than the two Americans, he controlled inside the area and defined the race. Strong and down.
Judgment? No, because Canada was proud and closed the gap with their first goal in World Cup history. It did not carry the name of any of its players, since Adekugbe’s cross was rejected by Aguerd at the near post and slipped it to Bono, who only brushed the ball.
With the passing of the minutes and the entry of a reference at the top such as Jonathan David, a substitute for no reason, Canada improved and gained ground against a Morocco that was satisfied with the result.
Their second half, excessively defensive, could have cost them a displeasure, when Hutchinson, in a corner, touched the phantom goal. He headed the crossbar and the ball bounced over the line. The rebound, forced, but without a goalkeeper, was sent up by Johnston, squandering Canada’s last option of not matching the embarrassing record of El Salvador.
Morocco, for the second time in its history, gets into the round of 16 and already expects a rival in Group E: Spain, Germany, Costa Rica or Japan. As soon as the referee whistled the Moroccan players invaded the field to celebrate one of the greatest successes of their team.