Morocco are on the brink of qualifying for the Round of 16 after the stalemate with Croatia and their stunning 2-0 victory over Belgium. Impressively, they have recorded successive clean sheets in a World Cup for the first time since 1986. Their final group game in Qatar comes on Thursday against Canada, who cannot go any further after failing to get a result in their first two games. The Atlas Lions’ position is so strong going into the match that they may be able to qualify for the knockout phase even if they lose.
Belgium sit third in the group on three points and do not have control of their own destiny. Morocco and Croatia each have four points. Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runners-up, will tackle Belgium at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, while Morocco and Canada do battle at the Al Thumama Stadium.
In their return to the finals after 36 years, Canada showed the world that they belong after a 22-shot performance against No. 2 ranked Belgium, which led to international praise. They followed that performance up by making Canadian men’s World Cup history when Alphonso Davies scored the country’s first-ever goal at the tournament against Croatia on Sunday. In Canada’s final game, the team is still looking for one more first: a result.
Location: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar
Date: Thursday, December 1st
Kick-off Time: 7:00 a.m. PT / 10:00 a.m ET / 1:00 p.m. GMT
Predicted Morocco XI: Bounou; Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Amrabat, Ounahi, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal
Predicted Canada XI: Borjan; Johnston, Vitoria, Miller; Laryea, Kone, Eustaquio, Davies; Buchanan, Hoilett, David
Morocco are expected to make few, if any, changes after such a great result against Belgium. Achraf Hakimi came off early against Belgium but should be available for this match. Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui looks to be returning after leaving the first game with Croatia complaining with a hip injury.
Canada have only pride to play for and this may be a chance for them to give some of the younger players a chance to experience a World Cup before Canada hosts the tournament in 2026. Ismael Kone is one of those who could well start should changes be made after coming off the bench in both previous games. There is also some concern for FC Porto player Stephen Eustaquio who has missed training because of a hamstring issue.
After scoring their first goal at the finals, Canada will hope to also gain their first point after being blanked in 1986. There is no doubting that there are good foundations in place and a solid youthful squad available to take forward to the next World Cup, which they will qualify for as a co-host. This year, the Canadians were just unfortunate to be drawn against the second and third-placed sides from 2018, and possibly the strongest team from Africa at these finals.
Morocco are favored to win the match and their excellent defensive form will challenge Canada. The all out attack of Canada will be daunting as Canadian pride will be on full display.