Canada 1 Morocco 2
Hakim Ziyech's among many reasons why you cannot underestimate Morocco
For the first time in 36 years, Morocco march on to the last-16. With this victory, they won Group F. No African nation has finished top of a World Cup qualifying group since 1998. The celebrations at the final whistle – the man-of-the-match Achraf Hakimi could be seen weeping, as the stands erupted in excitement – were something to behold. And rightly so. To top a group that included the teams ranked second and 12th in the world was some achievement.
But, boy, did Canada make Morocco work for those final three points that sealed their eminence. Sometimes, just sometimes, losers deserve plaudits. Canada had so much going for them – skill, effort, not to mention Alphonso Davies – they really ought to have collected more.
In this match, despite Morocco taking a two-goal lead within the first 25 minutes, with nothing to play for beyond pride, they never stopped trying, making life ever more uncomfortable for the vast swathes of vocal Moroccan supporters. They halved the deficit (albeit with an own goal) and almost got back on level terms, when, from a corner, substitute Atiba Hutchinson headed against the underside of the bar and the ball appeared to bounce over the line.
Technology, however, said it did not. Perhaps in four years’ time, when they will play in front of home crowds, these Canadians might finally achieve that elusive first World Cup win.
To the winners, though, the glory. Morocco look well-equipped to continue on deep into the competition. They have real quality – they must have to beat a side as dogged as Canada. Much of it will be familiar to English football fans. Romain Saiss at Wolves, Sofiane Boufal at Southampton.
And you suspect, on this performance, it will not be long before Azzedine Ounahi, a superb anchor in midfield, fetches up in the Premier League from Angers.
The two standout performers were those patrolling their right-hand side. Many a fan of England’s leading clubs has long cast envious glances at Paris St-Germain’s Hakimi, one of the best full-backs around. He was superb here, a Rolls-Royce of a defender, all smooth elegance, pace and power.
And he suggested afterwards that his team were the beneficiaries of a deliberate change of philosophy instigated by coach Walid Regragui, who took over only in August. “We had to change our mindset,” Regragui explained. “We didn’t want to fall prey to negativity. We need to duplicate the play of European and South American teams with our values, we need to mix the two.”
The player who has most benefited from the upgrade in confidence is Hakim Ziyech. He is having an exemplary World Cup. His turns, his disguised passes, his positional intelligence, everything he does is dangerous. And his goal to start things off after only two minutes, when he lobbed the Canada keeper Milan Borjan from 35 yards, was a masterpiece of cheeky invention.
Chelsea fans must wonder where this Ziyech has been lurking.
With Denmark out and Belgium wilting, many a pundit’s suggestion as to who might be the dark horse at this tournament has turned to dust.
But Morocco are still there. And it would be unwise for any of the other contenders to underestimate the threat they pose.
Herdman: We were close
Canada manager John Herdman said after the game: "I'm proud. I'm proud of what these lads have shown here. You're always going to walk away from this and it's going to sting, but there isn't a game that we're not proud of.
"I think we competed in every match here. This is the first time we've been here in 36 years. There's a qualitative gap at all levels and we're trying to close that. That's what we'll be doing and that's where we'll go.
"We'll keep learning as an organisation, as a coach and as a player group and we'll be back stronger. We've got four years to build, but this is our first step into the big unknown.
"We found a lot of things out: that this team has quality, that we can compete and that we were close."
Herdman: We showed our 'Canadian grit'
Canada manager John Herdman said after the game: "[The team] were two inches away from scoring the first points for Canada [at a World Cup]. I think everyone thought that ball was going to cross the line. We were willing it but it didn't.
"I think you're seeing that resilience, you're seeing our quality. This is a Moroccan team that's just won the group. I thought we showed that spirit. That Canadian grit that we came here to show."
Hutchinson: This is the start of a new beginning
Canada captain Hutchinson said: "For sure [it feels like a beginning]. It was a way for us to come here and show the world what we're made of. Show that we can play football and play with the best of them. We'll learn from these games. They're difficult games, we're playing against a lot of good teams.
"But it is the start of a new beginning for us. We'll continue to work and prepare like we always do and four years from now we'll be ready to do more and make some more noise."
Hutchinson: We're upset but proud
Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson said after the game: "On the chance, it was a very good ball in, I just tried to get my head on it and keep it down but it wasn't enough.
"Today we gave everything but it just wasn't enough. We tried our best. We gave everything we have inside of us to fight for ourselves and get something out of this tournament, to get the first points on the board for this country, and unfortunately we didn't get it today.
"We're very upset, we're disappointed at that but, of course, it's our very first time [at a World Cup] in a very long time. We're proud of ourselves and proud of what we came here and did, apart from not getting the points."
Unlucky for Canada
Despite some strong performances, Canada are still to earn their first World Cup points.
They definitely deserved something in their first game and were inches away from equalising today.
They lacked attacking prowess though, which was surprising, given Jonathan David's record for the national team and Lille.
Morocco showed all sides to their game, with attacking prowess and defensive grit. They have plenty of talented players and have finished ahead of the last World Cup's second and third placed teams.
It's only the second time that they have made it to the knock-out stages, with the first time in 1986.
I think they could give the best teams a good game, and I could picture them beating Germany in the next round, if the Germans manage to make it through.
Full time: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Morocco are through and top the group!
90+4 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Borjan was up for a corner, which was poorly delivered by Davies, but the keeper then delivered a pretty good cross. He then got caught up the park and had a poor clearance which nearly gave Morocco a chance, but Davies swept up.
90+2 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
It's still all Canada but they're not creating any chances. Morocco are showing real grit and defensive organisation.
88 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
A scary moment for Morocco! A long ball up and Bono comes out his box and chests it back into his area and catches it. Davies was ready just in case he dropped it.
85 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Morocco are very deep now and you can feel the nerves from the crowd. They've been pretty solid defensively but a goal for Canada and the outlook will be very different.
Sub for Morocco: Hakimi is off for Jabrane.
83 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
David Wotherspoon with a great turn there to send the defender the wrong way. He swings in a good cross to the back post and wins a corner, but nothing comes of it. An example of the high quality of players in the Scottish Premiership!
81 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Morocco nearly had a chance after Amrabat broke and passed it to Hamdallah, who was heading for goal. But he decided to cut inside and the ball was taken off him.
80 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Amrabat has been very solid in midfield for Morocco. He's been making plenty of interceptions and is great at spotting danger.
78 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Canada are piling on the pressure. Most of the game is now being okayed in Morocco's defensive third. They've had a few corners since Hutchinson's header but the deliveries haven't been great.
Perth native David Wotherspoon comes on for Junior Hoilett for Canada. Another Scot at the World Cup! But I'm surprised Hoilett is off as he's been a threat.
Ziyech and Ounahi off for Hamdallah and El Yamiq for Morrocco.
72 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Nearly for Canada! Hutchinson with a header from a corner which hits the bar and bounces on the line. It looked like it was over but we have to trust the technology.
A scare for Morocco.
66 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
You definitely wouldn't put it past Canada to get a goal. They're making Morocco defend deeper and are holding onto the ball for extended periods. No great chances of yet but possession helps. Kone seems to be trying to control things.
You could imagine Morocco catching them on the break though.
Subs for Morocco: Boufal and Sabiri off for Abouklal and Amallah.
Sub for Canada: Osorio off for Laryea.
61 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Subs for Canada: David, Hutchinson and Kone on for Kaye Adekugbe and Larin.
Can David show some of his form which has seen him repeatedly linked with Premier League teams?
59 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Hoilett has probably been Canada's most dangerous player today. He's looked to take people on and get the ball into forward areas. They need to get him on the ball more.
57 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Not a bad delivery but the free-kick was too strong for Cyle Larin to get near it. Atiba Hutchinson looks set to come on for Canada. It could be the 39-year-old's last appearance for his country.
56 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Canada have pushed further up and are having more of the ball now. Morocco don't seem to bothered about pressing them high up the pitch.
Can Canada fashion a chance after all this possession? They now have a free-kick out wide right.
52 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
The second half has been pretty fast-paced so far, with both sides going at it.
Azzedine Ounahi has looked really good for Morocco in midfield. He's holding the ball well, taking players on, intercepting, passing and moving. I'm sure the Premier League scouts will be looking at the Angers player.
As it stands
Morocco are topping the group, Croatia will finish second, while Belgium are heading out and Canada are already out.
And we're back!
Canada kick off to start the second half.
From our man on the ground
From Jim White at the Al Thumama Stadium
Morocco started this first half superbly, setting out as if determined there would be no hanging around wondering about permutations in this group. As predicted below Ziyech and Hakimi were the principal source of their dominance. First Ziyech scored with an audacious chip from thirty yards after a right muddle in the Canadian defence. Then Hakimi supplied a delightful lofted through ball that En-Nesri finished with style, a goal he celebrated in Ellen White fashion with a mime of a pair of spectacles.
But Canada, who have more than a little spirit coursing through their veins despite their several misfortunes this tournament, refused to be cowed. And they planted a little seed of doubt when Adukugbe crossed, Aguerd tried to clear but instead turned it goalward and Bono in the Moroccan goal, wrong footed and scrabbling around on the turf as if searching for his lenses, pushed the ball into the net. Poor Bono, it appears he still hasn't found what he’s looking for.
Rate the players
Who do you think is performing well so far? Let us know below.
Pictured: Canada pull one back
Pictured: Morocco's second goal
Half time: Canada 1 Morocco 2
What a game this has been so far! It looked to be all Morocco but Aguerd's own goal has brought Canada back into it.
45+4 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Morocco have a goal ruled out for offside! Ziyech with a good free-kick which isn't properly cleared and En-Nesyri lashes home with a volley.
But the linesman has his flag up after Aguerd was in the keeper's line of sight.
45 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Five minutes added on.
43 mins: Canada 1 Morocco 2
Canada now look more confident and are pressing a bit higher.
Can they get something from this game?
Canada strike back after an Adekugbe low cross deflects off Aguerd and the keeper can't keep it out.
First own goal of the tournament!
Canada 1 Morocco 2
39 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
As I predicted, Alphonso Davies has now gone a bit deeper and a bit more central to get the ball. But still Canada seem unable to get it to him. It seems he is getting a bit frustrated.
38 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
Morocco are very good technically. They don't panic when they are pressed and keep searching for the next pass. Once they win the ball, it is very difficult for Canada to get it off them.
36 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
By Jim White at Al Thumama Stadium
The Moroccan fans are noisily celebrating with their version of the Icelandic Thunder Clap. But it's a little ill-disciplined and speeds up too quickly as they get excited. Still, they have time to perfect it now they appear certain to qualify for the knock out stage.
35 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
A stoppage as something's going on with the officials. They're over at the side of the park chatting to someone in a suit.
A technical issue, perhaps?
33 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
There's not a lot of movement from Canada in the middle of the park. The defenders are getting plenty of the ball but don't really have anyone to give it to.
If this continues, the risk is that Davies will drop deep for the ball, and then he won't be in the final third where he can be so threatening.
26 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 2
Morocco have probably been good value for their lead. They have looked solid at the back and are holding on to the ball well. They also have a real attacking threat.
They would have to have a disaster not to go through from here.
A nice pass over the top from Hakimi. Youssef En-Nesyri with good pace and a strong right-footed strike.
Morocco well on their way to the knock-out stages.
Canada 0 Morocco 2
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) December 1, 2022
19 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 1
After a blistering start from Morocco, Canada have grown into it and are getting a bit more possession. Hoilett has had a couple of good pieces of play from deep, maybe he can create something.
15 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 1
Some great play on the right for Canada between Larin and Hoilett. Larin shows great pace and puts in a great cross for Buchanan who can't really reach it and it goes wide. He may have had more of a chance with his left foot, but he went with his favoured right.
14 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 1
Morocco don't press to high or dive in. They're patient and wait for the mistake, then attack with pace and accuracy.
If they go through, they could be very dangerous against the bigger teams.
Pictured: Ziyech's goal
10 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 1
A great delivery from the corner from Ziyech as he forces the keeper to punch away. Borjan isn't entirely convincing and Morocco get another shot away but it's not even close.
8 mins: Canada 0 Morocco 1
Ziyech has a free-kick from roughly where the goal was scored. He hits it with a lot of power but it hits the wall and is out for a corner.
The Moroccan fans are very excited.
Poor clearance from the Canada keeper Borjan after a bad pass back to him and Ziyech lifts it over him from 35 yards out.
He played it right into the Chelsea forward's path.
Canada 0 Morocco 1
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) December 1, 2022
1 min: Canada 0 Morocco 0
Nearly a chance early on for Morocco as Ziyech swings one in with his right foot.
There are two headers from the defenders but they get it away.
As it stands
Morocco are topping the group and Croatia will be second, Belgium are heading out and Canada are already out.
And we're off!
Morocco kick off to start the match.
the players are on the pitch and the Canadians have sung their national anthem.
Hakim Ziyech has his eyes closed during the Morocco one, but you can hear the roars from the crowd. It almost feels like a home game for the African side, that's how many fans they have here.
Ziyech and Hakimi could be the difference
Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi are the main players for Morocco. Their combination along the right side is a threat to any team, and they have shown that they play at a high level in the first two games.
But they will be up against Alphonso Davies, who is Canada's best player. He is rapid and great at carrying the ball, and regularly shows his ability for Bayern Munich. Can Hakimi push him back and keep him under wraps?
Canada looking for first World Cup point
In Canada's only other appearance in a World Cup, in 1986, they left with no points. They risk doing that again this time round.
Their last match was bittersweet, with Alphonso Davies scoring Canada's first ever World Cup goal after two minutes, but the team crashed out of the tournament after Croatia replied four times.
They will be disappointed if they leave the tournament with nothing, especially after a strong performance against Belgium and a good start against Croatia, so will surely come out all guns blazing against Morocco.
Morocco hope to reach knockout stages
Morocco need a draw today to reach the knockout stages for only the second time in their history.
The last time they did so was in 1986, and they were beaten 1-0 by West Germany in the round of 16.
It could also place them as group winners, although this isn't that much consolation as they could play Germany in the next round, if the latter managed to win against Costa Rica later on.
Morocco will be fairly confident of going through, as they have been pretty strong so far, and had a good win against World number two Belgium in their last match.
Pictures: Fans gear up for final group game
Only one change for Morocco
Sampdoria's Abdelhamid Sabiri starts in midfield ahead of Standard Liege's Selim Amallah, in Morocco's only change from their 2-0 victory over Belgium on Sunday.
Despite scoring an injury time goal last time out, Zakaria Aboukhlal starts on the bench again.
Key players Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi both start on the right hand side.
Ex-Wolves defender Romain Saiss is at centre-back.
David dropped for Canada
Canada have opted to drop Lille striker Jonathan David to the bench after an underwhelming couple of performances.
Stephan Eustaquio, who was impressive against Belgium, is out with a hamstring injury. Atiba Hutchinson and Richie Laryea drop to the bench.
Reading's Junior Hoilett, London-born Sam Adekugbe, Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye all come in.
The teams are out!
Canada: Borjan, Johnston, Steven Vitoria, Miller, Adekugbe, Osorio, Kaye, Davies, Buchanan, Larin, Hoilett.
Subs: St. Clair, Piette, Fraser, Cavallini, Ugbo, Hutchinson, Kone, Pantemis, David, Laryea, Millar, Wotherspoon, Cornelius, Waterman.
Morocco: Bounou, Hakimi, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui, Ounahi, Amrabat, Sabiri, Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal.
Subs: Hamdallah, Zaroury, Mohamedi, Chair, Aboukhlal, Amallah, Ezzalzouli, El Yamiq, Dari, Cheddira, Tagnaouti, El Khannous, Benoun, Attiyat Allah, Jabrane.
By Lauren Shireff and Matilda Head
Welcome to Telegraph’s Sport live coverage of this Group F decider between Morocco and Canada live from the Al Thumama Stadium which is due to kick-off at 3pm (UK time).
Canada have already been eliminated from this year’s World Cup, but today’s match is a crucial one for their opponents: winning just a point this afternoon will be enough for them to reach the last 16 for the first time since 1986.
Morocco are currently tied at the top of Group F with Croatia following the sides' 0-0 draw last Wednesday. They will be hoping for a stellar performance against an energetic Canadian side who “have nothing to lose,” in the words of manager Walid Regragui.
Regragui said: “Canada are a great team, and we must respect them, so we can get a good result. The World Cup is not easy. We must fight towards the last minute, so that we can win.”
Canada have performed valiantly at their second World Cup, with Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies scoring the team’s first ever goal at the tournament in a 4-1 defeat to Croatia in their opener.
Although they cannot advance to the knockouts, Canada are still desperate to head home with a win under their belts, with manager John Herdman saying their aim is “to make history”.
“This last game is about getting a result and winning for Canada, and really making this country believe that we’re in the right direction for 2026,” said the Canadian manager.
Morocco can guarantee their progress by winning this afternoon, while Croatia need only a draw in their final game against third-placed Belgium, who are a point behind the group leaders, to guarantee a knockout spot.
Stay tuned as we bring you team news, build-up, full match coverage and reaction.