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World Cup

Stellar Ziyech guides Morocco to top of World Cup group as Belgium are eliminated

20:33 GMT+3 01/12/2022
Hakim Ziyech Morocco World Cup 2022.
Hakim Ziyech inspired Morocco to a 2-1 win over Canada in their World Cup final Group F game on Thursday at the Al Thumama Stadium.
  • Morocco complete their group games unbeaten
  • They have conceded only once
  • Ziyech impressive as Atlas Lions outshine Canada

WHAT HAPPENED? With composure, Ziyech broke the deadlock in the fourth minute. A huge mistake by Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan created the perfect opportunity for the forward to score.

Borjan played the ball directly to Ziyech, who lofted it over the keeper and into the net.

Canada launched an attack in the 15th minute, with Tajon Buchanan leading the onslaught. He surged forward and picked out Cyle Larin, whose effort went inches wide, and that meant an opportunity lost for the North Americans.

The Atlas Lions added their second goal in the 23rd minute when Youssef En-Nesyri scored. The centre-forward made his way past Canada’s defenders and fired a powerful low drive to stretch Morocco’s lead.

Canada grew into the game, and their efforts were rewarded with a 39th-minute own goal by Nayef Aguerd. The centre-back diverted Samuel Adekugbe's ball past Yassine Bounou.

The goalkeeper made a quick attempt to prevent the ball from crossing the line, but he could not, as Morocco conceded for the first time in the tournament.

En-Nesyri had his celebration cut short when his goal was ruled out for offside. The striker thumped the ball home, but Aguerd – although he did not touch the ball - was offside as he blocked the goalkeeper.

The Atlas Lions withstood Canada’s relentless pressure to secure three points that took them to the top of their group.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: After failing to score in their last two games, En-Nesyri looked lively against the Canadians. His performance is a vindication of coach Walid Regragui’s confidence in the centre-forward.

As Morocco progress to the next round, En-Nesyri must be as lethal as possible in front of goal to keep their World Cup dreams alive.

As was the case against Belgium, Ziyech was impressive on the right of their front three. He has been in tantalising form, and Regragui’s decision to have him return to the national side has paid off already.

ALL EYES ON: After topping their group that had high-ranking Belgium and 2018 finalists Croatia, the Moroccans go into the knockout stages with their morale sky high.

Belgium who were handed a 2-0 defeat by the Atlas Lions, were eliminated after a goalless draw against the Croats.

THE VERDICT: After a high level of solidity against both Croatia and Belgium, Aguerd conceded when he diverted the ball into his own net. He was also caught offside, and that denied Morocco the third goal.

However, the own goal and the offside flag did not look to have had a negative impact on him as he composed himself fast and played a key role in helping Morocco register a second straight victory.

Given his otherwise firm partnership with Romain Saiss, Walid is not expected to drop Aguerd from his future starting lineups.

WHAT NEXT FOR MOROCCO? The Atlas Lions are through to the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history.