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FIFA World Cup 2022: Belgium crash out of tournament, Morocco beat Canada to enter knockout stages | Football news

Croatia advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup on Thursday after a 0-0 draw with Belgium, whose exit in the group stage is likely to herald the disintegration of its talented but underperforming generation of players. The Eastern European country has reached at least the semi-finals in each of its two knockout stages. Belgium were eliminated after scoring one goal in three matches, failing to live up to their status as the second-ranked team and one of the tournament favourites.

Needing a win to ensure progress, Belgium delivered their best performance of the World Cup, wasting two clear chances that fell to Romelu Lukaku. The half-time substitute shot against the post and was unable to control a ball bouncing against his chest.

What has long been dubbed Belgium’s “Golden Generation”, now with six players with over 100 appearances, will split with an appearance in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals as the highlight.

Morocco advanced to the last 16 at the World Cup for a second time after clinging on to a 2-1 victory over Canada on Thursday. The win saw them finish first in Group F, ahead of 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia and semi-finalist Belgium. Croatia went through as runners-up and Belgium, number 2, were surprisingly eliminated after their 0-0 draw. The Moroccans’ only other trip past the group stage was in 1986.

OFFICIAL: Morocco and Croatia have qualified for the 2022 Fifa World Cup Knockouts from Group F.

Hakim Ziyech scored for Morocco in the fourth minute after a foul by Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan who left the winger to shoot the ball into an empty goal. Youssef En-Nesyri added a second in the 23rd. It then looked as if Morocco would overrun the Canadians. But Nayef Aguerd’s own goal just before half-time made it 2-1 and lifted Canada enough to put pressure on Morocco looking for an equalizer for most of the second half.

Canada came agonizingly close when a second-half substitute captain Atiba Hutchinson’s header bounced off the crossbar onto the goal line. Canada, which is organizing the next World Cup in 2026 together with the United States and Mexico, was already eliminated before the match against Morocco. It eventually lost all three of its games in Qatar, matching the three defeats in its only other World Cup appearance in 1986.

Well before the final whistle, the players of the Moroccan team were already jumping up and down in a group at the dugout and coach Walid Regragui smiled broadly and gestured with his arms that they should continue to celebrate.

Morocco has dispelled doubts that appointing Regragui less than three months before the World Cup would undermine its chances of reaching the last 16. Morocco started their campaign in Qatar with a morale-boosting draw against Croatia and then beat Belgium 2-0 for arguably their best result in international football.

Morocco has now won as many matches at this World Cup as in all its previous appearances at the tournament combined and is on its way to its best performance at the tournament. The North African country’s only major international football title was at the African Cup of Nations in 1976.

A poor Canadian error gave Morocco the opening goal at Al Thumama Stadium as Steven Vitoria’s back pass pressured goalkeeper Borjan. But instead of clearing the field, Borjan inexplicably soft-floated the ball towards Ziyech, who fired it back over Borjan and into the unguarded goal for the first time.

For the second goal, Achraf Hakimi’s long ball fell between Canadian defenders Vitoria and Kamal Miller, and En-Nesyri chased after him and shot past Borjan to put Morocco in control.

Canada got one back when Sam Adekugbe’s cross deflected off Aguerd’s right foot and entered through another touch from goalkeeper Yassine Bounou’s right glove. Bounou was back in goal for Morocco after missing out on Belgium’s win when he fell ill minutes before kick-off and had to be substituted.

Canada came within a hair of avoiding defeat for the first time in its six World Cup matches when Hutchinson climbed over the defenders around him on a corner kick and headed into goal. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced off the line and Alistair Johnston was unable to force a follow-up header. Replays showed that some of the ball had crossed the line, but not all of it. (with PTI inputs)



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