Morocco vs Canada
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Morocco in World Cup Rround of 16 as Canada’s Campaign Ends With Goalkeeping Calamity

Morocco booked their spot in the knockout phase of the World Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over Canada at Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday.

As reported by ESPN, Hakim Ziyech punished poor Canadian defending to delicately chip home from 35 yards into an unguarded net for their opener, while Youssef En-Nesyri doubled their lead in the 23rd minute with a powerful finish. Canada pulled a goal back just before the break with Nayef Aguerd turning the ball into his own net.

Canada were the better of the two teams in the second half, and came close with Atiba Hutchinson’s header striking the bar and then the line — and they leave this World Cup with zero points but plenty of admirers for their performances and ambition.

For Morocco, this win means they top Group F and equal their best finish at a World Cup, after the 1986 team reached the round of 16 in Mexico.

Morocco’s Stars all Deliver When it Counts

On a night where Morocco were within touching distance of their second foray into the World Cup knockout stages, they needed their big stars to shine. Achraf Hakimi was brilliant while fellow wing-back Noussair Mazraoui was outstanding on the opposite flank. Then there was the trickery and brilliance of Ziyech, and the barnstorming runs of En-Nesyri.

Hakimi and Mazraoui have to be in with a shout of being the best full-back duo at this World Cup, and though Mazraoui is playing away from his usual right-back spot, he has performed brilliantly on the left.

Hakimi’s pass for En-Nesyri’s first-half strike was pitch perfect, while they did a brilliant job of keeping Canada’s attacking threats at bay.

While Alphonso Davies was predominantly playing through the middle, Mazrouai and Hakimi did well to shut down the half spaces and ensured any potential danger with the ball at his feet was often nullified before he had a chance to get going.

At the other end, Ziyech’s opener was a wonderfully judged piece of skill. The goal was gaping, after Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan found himself with the ball at his feet outside his 18-yard-box and, instead of hoofing it out of the stadium, he planted it straight to Ziyech’s feet.

Some 35 yards out, Ziyech nonchalantly chipped it into the empty net. It looked simple, but some players panic in that situation and fluff the chance.

En-Nesyri was unlucky not to have two first-half goals. He took his first brilliantly, as Hakimi’s arching through ball bisected two Canada defenders to allow En-Nesyri to run on to it.

His physicality, pace and poise meant he only needed one touch to set himself before rifling the ball past Borjan at the near post.

He had the ball in the net again just before half-time, but this was (harshly) ruled out by the referee’s assistant with Aguerd judged to be offside and in the line of sight of Borjan.

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