After being eliminated in their loss to Croatia, Canada were looking to play spoiler in Group.
Morocco’s win against Belgium put the Atlas Lions as favourites to advance to the round of 16 and they had a chance to do so as group winners.
Along with trying to play spoiler, Les Rouges still had something to play for however, as the Canadians were looking for their first ever point at the World Cup.
John Herdman made four changes for Canada’s finale, and handed World Cup starts to defender Sam Adekugbe, and midfielders Jonathan Osorio, and Mark-Anthony Kaye, and forward Cyle Larin.
As the Canadian’s would have expected, Morocco started the game on the front foot, and wanted to put Canada under pressure right from kick-off.
To their credit, Morocco succeeded in that endeavour pelting the Canadian box with long balls and cross forcing the Canadian defenders to clear their lines. Defender Alistair Johnston had to deal with an early cross to ensure Morocco didn’t get an early goal.
Only a couple minutes later however, the Atlas Lions’ pressure paid off as they found the opening goal of the match.
Two of Canada’s most experienced players combined to gift Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech, one of the easiest goals of his career. Steven Vitoria’s pass back to ‘keeper Milan Borjan was short, and Borjan chose not to kick the ball long. Instead, his heavy touch landed on the foot of the Chelsea winger, who made no mistake lobbing the ball into the empty net.
With Morocco continuing to control play and continuing to pressure the Canadian defence, Canada did manage to find their first real chance of the match, from a textbook counter attack. Canada turned defence into attack in a blink of an eye, as Les Rouges defended the Moroccan corner well and Cyle Larin launched the Canadian attack. Larin sent in a cross to the far post, but Tajon Buchanan couldn’t make good contact with the ball.
Canada’s brief spell on the front foot didn’t faze Morocco as they found their second goal of the game. A simple long ball from Achraf Hakimi found Youssef En-Nesyri, who made a run in between the Canadian centrebacks and fired home from inside the box.
Morocco, who were firmly in control at this point, once again got a chance to get forward and create a dangerous chance. It may have been 3-0, were it not for a crucial Alistair Johnsotn block.
Despite all the chances the Atlas Lions were creating, Canada found a glimmer of hope in the first half through a Sam Adekugbe cross. The Canadian defender, who was starting his first match this tournament, found some space on the left side and sent a cross looking for a Canadian forward. Instead, Adekugbe’s cross found Moroccan centreback Naif Augerd, whose block fooled his own ‘keeper and the ball found its way past the Moroccan goalkeeper.
Despite the Canadians gaining some momentum towards the end of the first half, Morocco earned a set piece in the Canadian half, and found the back for a third time, only for it to be ruled offside.
The second half saw a different Canadian side to the first half.
With Morrocco surely aware of results elsewhere in group F, they were picking their moments to attack. This allowed the Canadians to continue to grow into the game, keeping the ball more and more, while putting the Atlas Lions under pressure.
The Canadians continued to rack up set piece opportunities and finally thought it had broken through the stubborn Morocco defence.
Canadian veteran, Atiba Hutchinson, who came on as a second half substitute, in what will likely be his last tournament for Canada, rose highest to meet the corner. Much to his, and Canada’s disappointment, his header went off the crossbar and straight down onto the goal line but did not go over it.
Ultimately, Les Rouges bow out of the 2022 World Cup with zero points. The goal for this team was to try and get the first point at a World Cup for the men’s program. And while they were not able to do that, there was a lot this team learned about what they needed to get wins and progress to the next stages of major competitions.
Group F Final Standings
With Morocco’s win and Belgium’s 0-0 draw against Croatia, pre-tournament group favourite’s Belgium fail to advance while Morocco emerge as Group F winners.
- Morocco - 7 points
- Crotatia - 5 points
- Belgium - 4 points
- Canada - 0 points