The Atlas Lions of Morocco became the first African country to top their group since 1998 at the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar with a 2-1 win on Thursday evening over Canada.
The North Africans became only the third ever country to go top of the group stages at the World Cup in history since West Africa side Nigeria did it in 1994 and 1998 with Cameroon doing it 1990 with two famous victories.
Morocco themselves topped their group at the 1986 FIFA World Cup tournament as this becomes the second time topping their group same as Nigeria.
The Super Eagles’ grand entrance
“That was like watching the great Brazilian sides,” said John Fashanu after Nigeria’s World Cup debut: a 3-0 win over Bulgaria. The former England striker may have been biased given his Nigerian descendancy, but that 90-minute exhibition at the Cotton Bowl nonetheless wowed the world.
Finidi George, Emmanuel Amunike, Daniel Amokachi and Rashidi Yekini blended individual magic with indecipherable team-work in a demolition of an iconic, Hristo Stoichkov-led team who went on to reach the USA 1994 semi-finals.
The Super Eagles were eliminated in an extra-time loss to Italy in the Round of 16, but their thrilling campaign continues to be remembered.
Before today, Cameroon were the only side in history to top a World Cup group with a negative goal difference. At USA 1990, one-goal victories over Argentina and Romania preceded a 4-0 loss to Soviet Union.
This led to Italy legend, Gigi Buffon who was a 12-year-old aspiring midfielder until watching Cameroonian Thomas N’Kono at the 1990 World Cup made him dream of becoming a goalkeeper. The Italy legend named his first son Louis Thomas in honour of his idol.
The African country advanced to the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 1986 as they defeated Canada 2-1 to not only qualify for the Round of 16 but win Group F.
Belgium’s failure to score against Croatia means they are out, while Morocco finished on top and Croatia in second. It’s scenes for the African nation, whose first-half goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri paved the way for all three points.
At the other end, Canada once again put forth a spirited effort but came away with nothing, punished for their defensive mistakes yet again. 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.
Les Rouges come away with no points at a World Cup for the second time in as many appearances, while Morocco are on top and see their way through to the knockout stage.
Morocco will face the second placed team in Group E made of Spain, Germany, Japan and Costa Rica at the round of 16 stages.
4th min — MAR — Hakim Ziyech
23rd min — MAR — Youssouf En-Nesyri
40th min — CAN — Naif Aguerd (OG)
Canda (4-3-3, right to left): 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, right to left): 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′).