Morocco Emerge As Winners Ahead Of Croatia in World Cup Group F, Belgium Eliminated

World Cup

Morocco beat Canada 2-1 to advance to the World Cup Knockout stage in a historic win, topping the group ahead of second-placed Croatia

Morocco and Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech scored in less than 5 minutes in their 2022 Qatar World Cup fixture, following a howler by Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

Ziyech chipped into an empty net and this was the foundation for Morocco’s qualification to the Round of 16, in 36 years.

Morocco players celebrate Ziyech's goal in the final World Cup Group F fixture (Photo: Courtesy)
Morocco players celebrate Ziyech’s goal in the final World Cup Group F fixture (Photo: Courtesy)

The Atlas Lions dominated most of the fixture in the first half and were rewarded with a second goal. Achraf Hakimi played in a well-timed through ball for Morocco striker En Nesyri, who scores at the near post. Canada had very few clear-cut chances in the first half but had a little bit of fortune, as Morocco’s Nayef Aguerd deflected a cross into his own goal.

En Nesyri came close to a brace, but his second goal, right before halftime, was ruled out for offside.

In the second half, Canada came out with the intent to win the first points of their World Cup campaign. Substitute Ismaila Kone gave a good performance as well as Atiba Hutchinson, whose header hit the underside of the bar and bounced on the line.

World Cup Group F after final fixtures (Photo: SkySports)
World Cup Group F after final fixtures (Photo: SkySports)

Morrocco Head Coach, Walid Regragui, was in a bullish mode after the fixture and expressed the desire for the top prize,

“We are going to be a very difficult team to beat. I think African teams can go far. Why shouldn’t we dream of winning the World Cup?”

Morocco emerged as Group F winners and are set to face Group E Runners-up, Spain, on Tuesday, December 6, at Education City Stadium.

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Wasteful Belgium Crash Out

In the other Group F fixture, 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia faced 2018 World Cup third-best team Belgium in what was expected to be an all-out battle. However, neither side showed the cutting edge.

Within 10 seconds Ivan Persisc should have given Croatia the lead but blasted wide. Dries Mertens wasted his chance early on as well, after a pin-point pass by Kevin De Bruyne.

Belgium’s Golden generation wasted their last dance and did not have a single shot on target in the first half.

Clearly, there’s tension in the ‘Red Devils’ camp following controversial remarks by Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne on ‘being old’. Belgium have 15 out of 26 players above the age of 29, according to SkySports. Individually brilliant at the club level but divided as a team, Belgium crash out of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Lukaku’s introduction at halftime showed Head Coach Roberto Martinez’s desire for a win. The forward provided Belgium’s first shot on target, albeit a tame one.

Lukaku had at least three chances to score. De Bruyne raced through in the 60th minute, but Dominik Livakovic, the Croatian goalkeeper, made an outstanding stop, but Lukaku was the first to the ball as the Dinamo Zagreb keeper scampered to recover. He struck the near post. Amazingly, that was the most difficult of his squandered chances.

In the 87th minute, Thomas Meunier found Lukaku in the 6-yard box, but the striker shot wide. Moments later, he was picked out by Thorgan Hazard but the ball came too quickly to him, bouncing off his chest and into the arms of the Croatia goalkeeper.

Luka Modric, at 37, was a standout performer and could have been handed the chance to give Croatia the lead but the penalty given was waived after a VAR check that deemed Dejan Lovren offside in the build-up.

20-year-old Josko Gvardiol also gave a fantastic display in defense for Croatia, keeping out the likes of De Bruyne, Dries Mertens, and Yannick Carrasco.

The 0-0 draw saw Belgium get eliminated as Morocco defied the odds, winning against Canada and topping Group F.

Croatia will face group E shock winners Japan on Monday, December 5 at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Read Also: World Cup 2022: Japan Beats Spain to Qualify for Last 16 as Germany Bows Out

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