HomeWorld CupFIFA: How Canada can win Morocco to wrap up the tournament on Thursday

FIFA: How Canada can win Morocco to wrap up the tournament on Thursday

FIFA: How Canada can win Morocco to wrap up the tournament on Thursday

After a whirlwind week, the Canadian men’s national team’s World Cup is coming to an end on Thursday.

In terms of knockout-stage ramifications, there’s nothing at stake. Canada’s hopes of advancing were dashed after losing 4-1 to Croatia on Sunday.

However, there’s still an opportunity to achieve more history after scoring the country’s first goal at a men’s World Cup. Clinching a first victory would do wonders for the outside confidence in this team leading into the 2026 cycle.

“It’s a real opportunity for our players and for our country to keep stepping forward,” said Canada coach John Herdman in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.

“I think for all the people who’ve been waiting for Canada to arrive and were wondering how we were going to show up, I think we showed up on the front foot and that will be our approach again.”

It’ll be easier said than done against Morocco, which will pose another stiff test in the Group F finale at Al Thumama Stadium.

Here is what you need to know ahead of Thursday’s match.

Potential lineups
Here is how Canada could line up against Morocco.

The back line should remain the same apart from Sam Adekugbe surely starting at least one of these three matches. Adekugbe, an out-and-out left-back, might be the wiser choice here when facing Achraf Hakimi or Hakim Ziyech, as Laryea did struggle at times to contain Andrej Kramaric in the Croatia loss.

“Ziyech and Hakimi are just next level,” said Herdman. “It’s [Morocco’s] centre of gravity and I think every team in the world is going to struggle with what they’ve created there. It’s not an easy tactically, it’s a real collective defending you need to [defend them].”

From there, the rest of the side depends on Stephen Eustaquio’s and Atiba Hutchinson’s fitness. Eustaquio is still being assessed after suffering a hamstring injury in the first half on Sunday, so he’ll be touch-and-go leading up to kickoff.

Meanwhile, Hutchinson was exposed a few times in the first half, although that might have more to do with Canada’s lack of defensive discipline. The 39-year-old’s distribution was still very valuable in playing through Croatia’s high press.

The switch to a trio with Jonathan Osorio and Ismael Kone checking in masked that weakness in the second half, so expect either or both players to start in front of Hutchinson.

As for Morocco, which has fitness concerns itself, this is how the team might set up.

The only change from the 2-0 win over Belgium would be Yassine Bounou returning to the goal after recovering from injury. Coach Walid Regragui confirmed that the Montreal-born goalkeeper will be fit for the game.

The obvious players to watch will be Hakimi, Ziyech, Noussair Mazraoui and Sofiane Boufal. All three will pose significant threats out wide, especially in transition.

“We know the difficulty that we’ll face tomorrow,” said defender Steven Vitoria. “We learned some lessons over the first two games. We know every game is different. But we are also very clear with our identity and that’s where we talked about those gaps, that’s where that positive growth is for us is to stay true to our philosophy and close certain gaps.”

Canada’s x-factor: Buchanan and Davies
Nobody at the World Cup has attempted more carries than Alphonso Davies (18) and Tajon Buchanan (19), according to Opta. Davies is also among the tournament leaders in open-play chances created (5), while Buchanan has four.

It goes without saying, then, that they’ll be the key against Morocco.

It’s even more apparent when considering they are both wingers by trade. Both like to cut inside and dictate games from the half spaces, but they might thrive in wider areas.

Hakimi and Mazraoui will be pushing very high up the pitch, which means there will be space in behind to exploit.

Thorgan Hazard and Michy Batshuayi displayed this to a tee. Hazard received a pass on the left wing, then played in a wonderful pass for Batshuayi behind Hakimi.

Playing that ball, and a forward like Jonathan David making that run, stretches the Moroccan defensive shape and will unlock space for the likes of Osorio to shadow into the box.

Morocco’s x-factor: team defending
The Moroccan attack hasn’t produced a lot of quality chances despite possessing arguably two of the top chance-creating full-backs in the world, yet it’s the defence that’s held firm.

Morocco has conceded just 1.3 expected goals (xG), 15 shots and 0.08 xG per shot, all of which rank seventh at the World Cup.

A key piece of that success has been Sofyan Amrabat, the deep-lying midfielder who has been one of the best-performing defensive midfielders at the World Cup.

“Sofyan is playing exceptionally well,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui. “He’s playing as a defensive midfielder, just in front of the defensive line and I think that we’re hoping that he can grow with the team. He’s in top form and this allows us to play very well.”

The fact that Morocco held Croatia to just five shots is a testament to the work Amrabat puts in off the ball. He’ll surely be just as crucial in order for Morocco to reach the knockout stage at a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

This article was reported by Sportsnet.