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FIFAWC 2022: Morocco defeats Canada, becomes first African side to top group since 1998

Atlas Lions finish on top of group containing Belgium and Croatia

Morocco became only the second African country to finish on top of their World Cup group on two different occasions following their 2-1 win over Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Atlas Lions proved their quality to finish the group with seven points from three matches.

After starting the competition with a goalless draw against Croatia, Morocco picked up a stunning win over favourites Belgium to leave them needing a point from their final game against already-eliminated Canada to progress to the knockout stages.

Morocco started the game as they were meant to, and went in front within four minutes of kick-off. A back pass to Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan was chased and hounded by Morocco striker Youssef En-Nesyri, forcing the goalkeeper into a hashed clearance. Spotting him way off his line, Chelsea playmaker Hakim Ziyech produced a delightful dink over the retreating goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

The Atlas Lions continued to press their opponents as they looked to drive home their advantage, and they doubled their advantage midway through the first half.

A perfect long pass from Achraf Hakimu found the run of En-Nesyri, who showed great technique to bring the ball under his control before firing his effort under the Canadian goalkeeper in the 23rd minute. The effort made the Sevilla striker the first Moroccan to score in multiple editions of the FIFA World Cup.

Canada pulled one goal back in fortuitous circumstances before the break. A low cross from Bobby Adekugbe was turned into his own net by Nayef Aguerd to give Canada a lifeline. Morocco almost responded immediately as En-Nesyri slotted home following a free kick, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Canada huffed and puffed in the second half but were unable to find an equaliser. The North Americans lost all three of their matches in their first World Cup appearance since 1986.

Morocco finished the group stage with seven points, becoming the first African side since Nigeria in 1998 to finish top of their group at the World Cup.

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