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Another incomplete performance for Canada at the World Cup. But also a rousing late surge that fell just short in a 2-1 loss to a talented Moroccan side.
As in the two previous defeats at the tournament, there were some moments to savor and some to forget. The Canadian men go home wiser and with some more fans, if not wins, after a 36-year absence from the soccer showcase.
“It’s been the first time in a long time of being here,” Canada coach John Herdman said. “We’d like to have been here longer, that’s for sure. But we’ve enjoyed the ride.”
There were bumps along the way Thursday in a raucous and loud Al Thumama Stadium. And the Canadians will be disappointed in the way they fell behind.
Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri scored for No. 22 Morocco, which took advantage of horrendous Canadian defending to lead 2-0 after 23 minutes. Canada got an Nayef Aguerd own goal to cut the margin to 2-1 at the break.
The 41st-ranked Canadians gave the ball away at will and were second-best to the pacey, opportunistic Atlas Lions, whose counter-attack had Canada wobbling in the first half.
Herdman switched pitchside from no jacket to Canada tracksuit top to suit jacket as he tried to find a winning combination on and off the field. But there was little flow to the Canadian attack until he started making substitutions at the hour mark.
That sparked a spell of Canada pressure with Morocco barely holding on. The Canadians came oh so close in the 71st minute when substitute Atiba Hutchinson’s header off a corner hit the crossbar and bounced untouched to the ground but did not quite get all the way over the goal-line.
Hutchinson, in his 101st appearance for Canada, held his head in disbelief as Moroccan fans behind the goal exhaled.
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, born in Montreal but raised in Morocco, almost lost the handle on the ball in the 87th minute but held on to prevent disaster and the Atlas Lions survived four minutes of stoppage time — with Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan coming up for a corner as fans roared their sides on.
The Canadians finish the tournament with zero points, having previously lost 1-0 to No. 2 Belgium and 4-1 to No. 12 Croatia.
And while the Canadians earned kudos for their showing versus Belgium and Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever goal at the men’s tournament in the Croatia game, Canada has now lost its first six World Cup matches — the third team in the history of the tournament to do so after Mexico (which lost its first nine outings) and El Salvador (six).
Canada also went 0-3-0 in 1986 in Mexico, losing 1-0 to France and 2-0 to both Hungary and the Soviet Union.