DOHA: Two first-half goals set Morocco on its way to top place in World Cup Group F but it had to hold on for a 2-1 win over Canada at the Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday after conceding an own goal that kept it nervous through the second half.
Morocco finished on seven points, two more than runner-up Croatia, to advance from the group stages for a second time, 36 years after it became the first African country to do so at the Mexico World Cup in 1986.
A goalkeeping howler allowed Hakim Ziyech to score after four minutes, followed by a second in the 23rd minute from Youssef En-Nesyri, running onto a superb long pass from Achraf Hakimi.
But Nayef Aguerd stuck out a toe to deflect a cross from Sam Adekugbe into his own net five minutes before the break to offer already-eliminated Canada a chance to get back in the game and win a first World Cup point. Canada came close to a second-half equaliser but proved unable to make the breakthrough.
Atiba Hutchinson came close with a header that rattled the crossbar and dropped down onto the line as Canada’s campaign ended without a point. Knowing if it avoided defeat it would go through, Morocco was happy to sit back and soak up pressure in the second period.
Morocco next plays on Tuesday against the runner-up in Group E, which will be decided later on Thursday.
Results: Morocco 2 (Ziyech 4, En-Nesyri 23) bt Canada 1 (Aguerd 40-og)