Friday, 27 January, 2023
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Morocco, Croatia reach last 16

Belgium crash out

Morocco, Croatia reach last 16

DOHA: Morocco qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 by beating Canada 2-1 on Thursday, while Croatia advanced at Belgium's expense after drawing 0-0, reports AFP.

Goals from Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri meant Morocco topped Group F on seven points, two ahead of 2018 runners-up Croatia, who go through in second place.

Morocco will face the runners-up from Group E in the last 16 while Croatia will face winners from Group E, with the identity of their opponents decided later Thursday.

Canada's defeat meanwhile capped a disappointing World Cup for the CONCACAF side, who depart after losing all three of their group games on their long-awaited return to the finals.

Morocco put themselves firmly on course for the second round after upsetting Belgium 2-0 on Sunday, a result that left them needing only a point against Canada on Thursday to be sure of advancing.

Achieving that objective never looked in doubt after the Moroccans grabbed the lead after only four minutes in front of 43,102 fans at Al-Thumama Stadium.

Canada captain and goalkeeper Milan Borjan raced off his line to clear an underhit backpass from Steven Vitoria but could only watch in horror as the ball fell to Morocco's Ziyech.

                The Chelsea star seized the opportunity ruthlessly, coolly lifting a finish over the stranded Borjan into the empty net for 1-0.

That early setback winded Canada, who struggled to gain any sort of a foothold against a rampant Morocco who were soon 2-0 up.

Canada pulled a goal back on a rare foray forward five minutes from half-time when defender Sam Adekugbe skipped clear down the left and rifled in a low cross.

Defender Nayef Aguerd stuck a leg out and the ball deflected into the net past Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to make it 2-1.

Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku missed a string of late chances as Belgium crashed out of the World Cup and 2018 runners-up went into the knockout phase.

Croatia had a penalty award controversially cancelled by VAR early in a largely uneventful first half.

The introduction of Lukaku at the interval changed the game, but he was guilty of three dreadful misses as Zlatko Dalic's side rode their luck to hold on.

Belgium should have taken the lead on the hour mark.

Carrasco almost bundled the ball in but was denied by Livakovic, before Lukaku contrived to hit the post with the goal gaping on the rebound.

Lukaku was guilty of an even worse miss two minutes later, heading over an empty net from six yards out, although replays suggested the ball may have been out of play when De Bruyne crossed it in.

Martinez also threw on Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans and Jeremy Doku as Belgium searched for that all important goal.

Lukaku saw another chance come and go in the 87th minute, deflecting the ball wide from Thomas Meunier's volley.

The striker, on loan at Inter Milan from Chelsea, still had another golden opportunity to be the hero, but he opted to chest the ball towards the open net from three yards out and directed it into the arms of Livakovic.