Odishatv Bureau

Two first-half goals set Morocco on their way to the top spot in FIFA World Cup Group F. But they 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 them nervous through the second half.

Meanwhile, Croatia held Belgium to a 0-0 draw to progress to the last 16 as the runners-up.

Morocco finished on seven points, two more than runners-up Croatia, to advance from the group stages for a second time, 36 years after they 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.

Croatia send Belgium packing


Croatia reached the last 16 of the World Cup after a tension-filled 0-0 draw with Belgium that ensured the last hurrah of the Belgian ‘golden generation’ ended in a dismal group-stage exit.

Roberto Martinez’s side, ranked second in the world and semi-finalists four years ago, needed a win at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to keep their hopes alive but could not break down the Croats who finished as Group F runners up behind Morocco.

Substitute Romelu Lukaku fluffed four golden chances to break the deadlock as Belgium cast off the shackles in the second half, although Croatia had their own opportunities to find a winner.