Published on: December 1, 2022, 12:36 p.m.
Last update: December 1, 2022, 12:46 p.m.
Morocco may have been seen as a sleeper team before the start of the FIFA World Cup, but they are not anymore. Their win against Canada on Thursday didn’t make a difference in advancing to the round of 16, but it did help show what the team is capable of.
Morocco qualified for the round of 16 of the World Cup for the second time in its history. They played a decisive game against Canada on Thursday and are no strangers to championship contention.
Morocco is ahead of the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) to win the World Cup. They don’t have a huge advantage, but the bookies like what they see so far.
Morocco surprises the football world
The Moroccans had not made it past the group stage since their participation in Mexico in 1986. They faced Croatia, who drew 0-0 with Belgium in the other Group F match.
Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring for Morocco after just four minutes after a blunder by Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan. That left the winger in turn to complete the empty net and Youssef En-Nesyri then scored the second goal in the 23rd minute.
Nayef Aguerd’s own goal just before halftime made it 2-1, and Canada looked to equalize for most of the second half. It almost happened, but Atiba Hutchinson’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced off, ending any chance of success.
Canada, which will host the next World Cup with the USA and Mexico in 2026, has a bye with three losses. They repeated the performance of their only previous World Cup appearance, which came at the 1986 games in Mexico.
Croatia advanced to the round of 16 after drawing 0-0 against Belgium on Thursday. The elimination of the group stage is likely to undo a talented generation, as a number of star players reach the end of their careers.
The Croatians, who finished second in Group F behind Morocco, have reached at least the semi-finals on each of the two occasions they have progressed to the knockout stage. Belgium, number two in the world, were eliminated after scoring just one goal in three games. They lost control after initially presenting themselves as a possible title contender.
The group stage is coming to an end
The third and final day of the group stage is here and it’s already knocking out extra pieces. So far, the World Cup has been a very even tournament, and the numbers confirm that impression. Only three teams (France, Brazil and Portugal) have won their first two matches. In some previous tournaments, Brazil in 2014 and Russia in 2018, seven teams achieved this feat.
For now, there are two teams left with no chance of advancing in the tournament, Canada and Qatar, both of which lost their first two matches.
There are still tight matches on Thursday as teams try to compete for position. All eyes are on December 18, when the two best teams meet in the final, decisive battle.
Spain, who face Japan shortly, are undoubtedly one of the teams that have emerged since their world conquest in 2010. This time, they had a tough competitor in their group in Germany, who are always a heavyweight tough in the World Cup competition.
Spain gets -260 on Tipico on Thursday, while Japan is at +750. The latter has already shown that he cannot be dismissed easily and pundits expect this to be a tight game.
Brazil are still in front to win the tournament, followed by France and Argentina. Spain and England are next, while the USMNT is further down the list. If they can get past Holland on Saturday, that could all change.