FIFA World Cup: Belgium eliminated as Morocco, Croatia advance

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Group F was decided at the World Cup on Thursday, and the two teams to advance to the round of 16 are a surprise. Morocco is the group winner after a 2-1 victory over Canada while Croatia finished in a scoreless draw against Belgium and earned the group’s second spot in the knockout round.

In Group E games beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern, Germany must beat Costa Rica to have any chance to advance, and Spain faces Japan in another critical matchup.

  • Morocco will face the Group E runner-up on Tuesday, while Croatia will face the Group E winner Monday. Belgium’s early exit is a major disappointment for the world’s second-ranked team.
  • The World Cup continues Friday when the round of 16 will be set after the finales in Group G and Group H.

Scoreless draw pushes Croatia into knockout round; Belgium out early

It’s a wonder this game ended scoreless. But after 90 minutes, Croatia and Belgium played to a 0-0 draw, sending the former to the knockout round and the latter home. Belgium had ample opportunities in this one, and at times, too little urgency.

In the 48th minute, Yannick Carrasco missed from outside the box, and a minute later, halftime substitution Romelu Lukaku’s header was saved. In the 60th minute, it was Carrasco and Lukaku again. Carrasco’s right footed attempt from close-range was blocked, leading to Lukaku’s could-be game-winner that hit the near post.

Lukaku’s mind-boggling streak of misses continued in the 90th minute, when Dejan Lovren missed an attempt to head the ball clear and it fell to the Inter Milan striker’s chest. Lukaku could not convert from point-blank range, and his struggles only served to emphasize the quality of Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol, who helped send Belgium and its ‘Golden Generation’ packing.

Croatia was not short on chances, either. It had 11 to Belgium’s 16. It also saw a 15th-minute foul erased, after Croatia was awarded a penalty kick but a review caught Lovren narrowly in an offside position.

Croatia will advance from Group F but finishes second after Morocco’s win over Canada and will face the Group E winner on Monday.

Morocco wins Group F after 2-1 victory over Canada

Morocco pounced on an early mistake by Canada’s defense, added a second goal on a sterling long ball and held on in the second half for a 2-1 victory Thursday, securing a surprise first-place finish in Group F.

The Atlas Lions, whose only previous trip past the World Cup group stage occurred 36 years ago, will face the runner-up from Group E on Tuesday. They have yet to surrender a goal scored by an opponent; Canada’s score Thursday came via own goal by Morocco’s Nayef Aguerd in the 40th minute.

Morocco got on the board in the fourth minute, capitalizing on mistakes by Canadian defender Steven Vitória and goalkeeper Milan Borjan. Vitória tried to play the ball back to Borjan while Youssef En-Nesyri was giving chase. Borjan came well out of his net to play the ball but En-Nesyri’s pressure produced a weak clear, and Hakim Ziyech easily chipped it into the goal from distance.

En-Nesyri added a goal in the 23rd minute, converting a perfectly lofted pass from past midfield. From there, Morocco could ease off the gas, because it only needed a win or draw to advance.

The loss ends a hugely disappointing World Cup for the Canadians, who had high hopes after finishing atop the CONCACAF qualifying table. But its second trip to soccer’s grandest stage ended with three losses. Canada now has lost all six of its World Cup matches over the years, tying El Salvador for the most without a point, and now will focus on the 2026 event, which it will host alongside the United States and Mexico.

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