Morocco’s Atlas Lions Top Group F to Book Last 16 Place First Time in the 36 Years

Morocco defeated Canada 2-1 in a nervy encounter on Thursday to top Group F and reach the World Cup knockout stage for the first time in 36 years.

The Atlas Lions are the second African country behind Senegal to book their place in the knockout phase of the Qatar 2022 tournament. 

Despite nothing at stake for the Canadians, they almost towed the same spoiler role that Saudi Arabia played in getting Mexico out of the tournament on Wednesday night.

Now, a massive test awaits the Moroccans whose next round fixture against the team that finished second in Group E, could potentially be Spain or Germany.

Morocco went ahead after just four minutes courtesy of a goalkeeping howler from Milan Borjan.

The Canada keeper sprinted out of his goal but passed the ball straight to Ziyech, who lofted a cool finish into an open net from 30 yards.

The north African side doubled their advantage through Youssef En-Nesyri’s well-taken goal as he controlled Achraf Hakimi’s superb pass before firing in.

But sloppy defending gave Canada a route back into the game when West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd stuck a boot out to divert the ball into his own net – the 100th goal scored at this World Cup.

Knowing if they avoided defeat they would go through, Morocco were happy to sit back and soak up pressure in the second period.

But Atiba Hutchinson came close with a header that rattled the crossbar and dropped down onto the line as Canada’s campaign ended without a point.

The Atlas Lions, whose previous trip to the last 16 came in 1986, finished above 2018 finalists Croatia, while Belgium – ranked second in the world – are out after finishing third in the group.

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