FIFA World Cup 2022: Morocco through to Round of 16; Croatia knocks out Belgium

2 December, 2022

The penultimate day of the group stages in FIFA World Cup 2022 saw some terrific results for neutral supporters. Croatia and Morocco progressed to the next round to keep themselves alive in Qatar, while debutants Canada and a star-studded Belgian team will be on their flights back home. 

Morocco was up against Canada, who were already knocked out of the tournament before the ball was kicked. Early on in the match, a goalkeeping howler from Milan Borjan, where he came way off his but did not clear the ball properly, saw the African side open the scoring in the fourth minute. 

Borjan’s clearance fell straight to Hakim Ziyech, who lifted it over the keeper with ease to his score his first goal at the FIFA World Cup. Youssef En-Nesyeri was soon set up brilliantly by full-back Achraf Hakimi for Morocco’s second goal. In a game where the side needed just one point to go through, the Atlan Lions had a two-goal cushion inside 25 minutes.

An own goal from Nayef Aguero just before half-time made things tight, but despite Canada’s best efforts, they were taken down a far-superior Moroccon unit, who were determined to finish on a high. With seven points to their credit, they emerged as the unexpected table toppers in Group F. 

Croatia and Belgium were playing simultaneously at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, where the spoils were shared 0-0 in a heart-breaking result for the Belgians. Croatia started the game on the front foot, creating two clear opportunities inside 70 seconds. They soon received a penalty and just as Luka Modric was prepping to take it, VAR spotted an off-side in the build-up to the foul which denied them the spot-kick. 

Dries Mertens had a terrific opportunity to open his body and curl home a terrific goal when Kevin de Bruyne found him with an exquisite pass, but the former Napoli forward got it all wrong and skied it. His replacement Romelu Lukaku had the most forgettable night of his career, where he missed three opportunities to place the ball into an open net. 

The best of these three chances for Lukaku came in injury time when Thorgan Hazard’s picture-perfect cross fell to him inside the six-yard box. But the Inter Milan forward’s the decision to chest it first drowned him as the touch was too heavy and the defenders recovered the ball. Belgium, who took a bronze home from Russia, left empty-handed from Qatar.