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Morocco beat Canada 2-1 to secure a spot in the World Cup round of 16

Wild celebrations at Al Thumama Stadium after Atlas Lions advanced to the next stage of the tournament in Qatar.

Morocco advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup for the second time in its history after defeating Canada 2-1 in the soccer tournament in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions’ only other trip beyond the group stage was at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Hakim Ziyech scored for Morocco in the fourth minute after a poor mistake by Canada keeper Milan Borjan left the winger to shoot the ball into an empty goal. Youssef En-Nesyri added a second in the 23rd, sparking wild celebrations among the Morocco fans who packed the Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday.

But Nayef Aguerd’s own goal just before halftime made it 2-1 and buoyed Canada enough to pressure Morocco for the equalizing goal for most of the second half.

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Morocco players celebrate
Moroccan players celebrating with their fans [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Canada came painfully close when a header from captain Atiba Hutchinson, who came on as a second-half substitute, bounced off the crossbar and across the goal line.

The final whistle sent Morocco’s players onto the pitch in celebration, while their supporters in the stands jumped and hugged.

“I have no words, just a lot of feelings,” Morocco fan Malek Alami told Al Jazeera at Al Thumama Stadium, describing the win as one of the “happiest moments” of his life.

“This is an incredible achievement for us. It will really unite our country,” said the 37-year-old from Fez. “The party will continue until Fajr [morning Muslim prayer]”, he added.

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morocco celebrations
Morocco fans were full of smiles [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

A draw would also have been enough for Morocco to advance.

In the end, they topped Group F with seven points, two ahead of 2018 runners-up Croatia, who also move to second with five points.

Ranked second in the world before the tournament, Belgium disappointed by picking up just four points and finishing third.

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Canada, which will co-host the next World Cup in 2026 with the United States and Mexico, ultimately lost all three of its games in Qatar, equaling its three losses in its only other World Cup appearance in 1986.

The Moroccan players send the coach Walid Regragui through the air [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

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