By Spy Uganda
First-half goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri helped Morocco to a 2-1 win over Canada that saw them secure top spot in Group F and a place in the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Morocco were drawn in a tricky group, including Croatia and Belgium, who finished second and third in 2018 respectively, but took four points off the European sides before holding on for victory against Canada in their final group game.
Morocco will now play Spain in Al Rayyan on Tuesday after Luis Enrique’s side finished as runners-up in Group E.
A victory for Croatia over Belgium – who faced off at the same time as Morocco played Canada – could have seen the North Africans drop to second, but it was the Croatians who finished as runners-up after drawing 0-0 with Roberto Martinez’s outfit, who crashed out at the group stage.
In another development, Germany sensationally crashed out of the World Cup despite beating Costa Rica at Al Bayt Stadium, with Japan stunning Spain to send Der Team home at the group stage – just like in 2018.
Hansi Flick’s team knew nothing less than a victory could send them into the last 16, but Japan’s win in the other game meant they faced the improbable task of making up seven goals on Spain. Serge Gnabry put them ahead at the break, but goals from Yeltsin Tejeda and Juan Pablo Vargas briefly put Costa Rica into the qualification spots.
Luis Fernando Suarez’s team couldn’t hold on, though, and a Germany side who hit the post several times eventually completed their turnaround. A Kai Havertz double put Flick’s men back in charge, before Niclas Fullkrug scored his second goal in as many games to make it 4-2, but it was too little, too late.
When Flick’s men first took the lead, it looked like a case of how many. Instead, though, the CONCACAF side found a response in a similar manner to Japan in Germany’s first group game, with Keysher Fuller stinging the palms of Manuel Neuer before levelling through Tejeda.
Jamal Musiala and Antonio Rudiger both hit the woodwork in pursuit of another goal, and Musiala then did so for a second time. Instead, though, it was the underdogs who scored the game’s third goal, through Vargas, after a VAR check.
Fullkrug was one of the players introduced in the second period, looking to add to the crucial equaliser he scored against Spain. The striker had a golden chance to put his team back in front, only to fire an effort into the face of goalkeeper Keylor Navas from point-blank range.