For the first time since 1986, Morocco qualified for a World Cup round of 16. The victory against Canada even gave the team the group victory. This takes an African team past the group stage.
Morocco qualified for a World Cup Round of 16 for the first time in 36 years on a historic day for African football. The team, led by former Bundesliga star Achraf Hakimi, won 2-1 (2-1) against Canada, who had already been eliminated, on Thursday and prevailed as the winners of Group F. This makes Morocco a potential opponent for the German side on Tuesday should they also reach the knockout rounds.
In the Al-Thumama Stadium, which was not sold out with 43,102 fans, Hakim Ziyech (4th minute) and Youssef En-Nesyri (22nd) scored a historic evening. This is only the second time since 2014 that two African teams are in a World Cup round of 16. Senegal had already qualified ahead of Morocco. Ghana can follow suit on Friday and provide an unprecedented African trio in the knockout stages. Morocco's success against the overwhelmed Canadians, for whom Nayef Aguerd (40') scored an own goal, was also the sixth African victory at these finals - a record.
With the former German U21 international Abdelhamid Sabiri in the starting XI for the first time, Morocco quickly pushed for clear conditions - and got them with the help of Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan. The captain threw a free punch right into Ziyech's foot, and the Chelsea pro lobbed the ball into the goal. The numerous fans from Morocco, who were already in a great mood, created goose bumps.
Canada seemed completely helpless, with absolutely no countermeasures against Morocco's swift and precise attacks. In the midfield of the North Americans, the injured driver Stephen Eustáquio was missing immensely, the record national player Atiba Hutchinson, who was sitting on the bench, was missing as a calming influence. At no point did Canada repeat the courageous performances against Belgium and Croatia. Although the ice hockey nation had already been eliminated, the goal was the first World Cup point in history.
The Moroccans, who were playing like they were drunk, had something to object to. Hakimi played a stunning 30-yard pass down the path of En-Nesyri, who smashed the ball into the near corner for the second goal. Again Borjan looked anything but good. The Canadian sign of life came through Morocco defender Aguerd. He steered a sharp cross from Sam Adekugbe into his own goal.
En-Nesyri (45.3) restored the lead just before half-time but Aguerd was ruled offside for the Sevilla striker's second goal. The only one who initially didn't notice the decision of the Brazilian referee Raphael Claus was En-Nesyri, who let the fans celebrate extensively at the corner flag.
After the change, Canada - accompanied by the persistent whistles of the Moroccan fans - initially pressed for the equaliser. Coach John Herdman also brought in Hutchinson and star striker Jonathan David. Morocco were aiming for counterattacks, but the team didn't implement them consistently enough. That almost took revenge when Hutchinson (71') hit the crossbar with a header - but the corner had already crossed the goal line beforehand.