Canada and Morocco arrived at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar with two very different goals; Morocco were attempting to pull off a huge surprise and top the group whereas Canada was trying to get their first points of the tournament.
In the end, Morocco advanced to the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 1986 after defeating Canada 2-1. Belgium’s inability to score against Croatia means they are heading home, while Morocco finished at the top of the group with Croatia in second.
The game started as badly as it could for the Canadians with farcical defending and poor execution. It took them 30 minutes to get into the game but by that time Morocco was already cruising at 2-0. In the 4th minute, Canadian Steven Vitoria made a horrible back-pass to the keeper Milan Borjan which forced him to come out to clear the ball. Instead, he just gave it directly to Hakim Ziyech who buried the 40-yard chance into the open net.
In the 23rd minute the Canadians were once again the architects of their own downfall. With a very high line being used, A simple long ball forward split the Canadian defense wide open. En-Nesyri was blanketed by two Canadian defenders but got a shot away from a tight angle and produced a fine finish.
With two goals to overcome, Canada once again put forth a spirited effort and pressed the Moroccans for the remainder of the game. Their lone strike came just before the half via an own goal from Naif Aguerd who deflected a Sam Adekugbe cross into the back of the net. Before the half ended, Morocco had a goal disallowed for offside.
Canadian pressure continued in the second half and a corner kick in the 67th minute saw Atiba Hutchison smash the ball into the bar only to have it drop and hit the line.
Canada was this close to leveling the score vs Morocco pic.twitter.com/BTx8AhfhjP— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 1, 2022
The final whistle blew after an almighty effort by the Canadian team to level the score.
Here’s what Canada head coach John Herdman had to say following his side’s third straight defeat, speaking to BBC Two:
“We were two inches away for scoring the first points for Canada. Everyone thought that ball was going to cross the line. We were willing it but it doesn’t happen. You’ve seen that resilience, you’ve seen our quality.
“This is a Moroccan team that have just won the group. I thought we showed that spirit, that Canadian grit that we came here to show. and our quality at times.”
For the first time since 1986, the Atlas Lions have escaped the groups! pic.twitter.com/12rJKpYsBK— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 1, 2022
As a Canadian, it was so great seeing our team at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Fortunately, it won’t take another 36 years to come back as Canada will get an automatic place in the 2026 tournament as co-hosts with the United States and Mexico.
Hopefully, Canada can take the lessons learned in this tournament into the next one, which will be expanded to 48 teams and likely give teams just two group games. Canada can leave the 2022 FIFA World Cup with its head held high. With some young, talented players like Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, there is so much positivism going forward. This was an important first step.
Lineups and Substitutions:
Canada (4-3-3): 18. Borjan (GK) — 2. Johnston, 5. Vitoria, 4. Miller, 3. Adekugbe (Kone, 60’) — 10. Hoilett (Wotherspoon, 76’), 14. Kaye (Hutchinson, 60’), 21. Osorio (Laryea, 65’) — 11. Buchanan, 17. Larin (David, 60’), 19. Davies.
Morocco (4-3-3): 1. Bounou (GK) — 2. Hakimi (Jabrane, 85’), 5. Aguerd, 6. Saiss, 3. Mazraoui — 8. Ounahi (Hamdallah, 76’), 4. Amrabat, 11. Sabiri (Amallah, 65’) — 7. Ziyech (El Yamiq, 76’), 19. En-Nesyri, 17. Boufal (Aboukhlal, 65’).