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Morocco joins Senegal in Qatar 2022 second round as Ghana, Cameroun fight for survival

By Christian Okpara
02 December 2022   |   4:15 am
Africa got its second candidate into the second round of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar, yesterday, when Morocco defeated Canada 2-1 to advance to that stage.

Atlas Lions of Morocco celebrating qualification to Qatar 2022 round of 16 after their 2-1 defeat of Canada…yesterday.

At 39, Dani Alves to become oldest captain at World Cup

Africa got its second candidate into the second round of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar, yesterday, when Morocco defeated Canada 2-1 to advance to that stage.

Senegal had on Tuesday beaten Ecuador 2-1 to move to the round of 16, but Tunisia did not have such luck, as their 1-0 defeat of France on Wednesday could not fetch them a second round ticket.

Yesterday in Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, Morocco first half blitz took Canada by surprise as they crumbled under the North African force.
Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri scored the goals that saw Morocco secure top spot in Group F and a place in the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

Morocco were drawn in a tricky group, including Croatia and Belgium, who finished second and third in 2018 respectively, but took four points off the European sides before holding on for victory against Canada in their final group game.

Morocco will now play the runners-up in Group E, comprising Spain, Japan, Costa Rica and Germany. Group E matches were concluded late yesterday.
A victory for Croatia over Belgium – who faced off at the same time as Morocco played Canada – could have seen the North Africans drop to second, but it was the Croatians who finished as runners-up after drawing 0-0 with Roberto Martinez’s outfit, who crashed out at the group stage.

Canada, playing at their first World Cup since 1986, pulled a goal back shortly before half-time when Nayef Aguerd inadvertently turned Sam Adekugbe’s cross into his own net, but ultimately finished bottom of the standings, without a point.

Today, Ghana and Cameroun will fight to join the Moroccans in the round of 16 when they meet Uruguay and Brazil respectively.The Ghana versus Uruguay game at the Al Janoub Stadium is a repeat of their 2010 quarterfinal clash in South Africa, which ended in tears for the West Africans.

The match is remembered for Luis Suarez’s famous handball, which prevented what would have been a winning goal for the West Africans. The resultant penalty was missed by Asamoah Gyan to take the game to a penalty shoot out, which the Uruguayans won 4-2 to earn a semifinal berth.

There has been talk of revenge among Africans in Qatar, but Ghana’s Coach, Otto Addo, thinks it is much more than that. He admits he would ‘expect’ his players to repeat Luis Suarez’s infamous handball if required, as the African nation prepares to face Uruguay for the first time since the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.

Addo admitted Suarez’s actions 12 years ago were ‘normal’ and would expect his team to do all they can to qualify for the knockout stages.

“In general, it is about perspective, if the same incident would have happened the other way around and Ghana proceeded to the semi-finals, everyone would say it is normal that a player would do anything he can to help his team go to the semi-finals,” Addo said.

Although he admitted that for many Ghanaians, today’s rematch is not a normal game, he also stressed that his team should be solely focused on securing victory.

Suarez had earlier refused to apologise for the handball, with the veteran forward instead saying Gyan was at fault for missing the penalty.

A reporter had told the 35-year-old that people in Ghana regard him as ‘the devil himself’ and that they look forward to retiring him. Uruguay have to beat Ghana if they are to progress to the last-16, having earned only one point from their opening two matches.

In Africa’s second game of the day, Cameroun will try to beat a changed Brazilian side to make the last 16. According to reports, Brazil’s coach Tite is set to follow France’s lead and rest key players for their final group game against Cameroon with their place in the last 16 already secure.

Tipped as favourites for the trophy in Qatar, Brazil need just to draw with Cameroun at the Lusail Stadium to secure top spot in Group G after starting their campaign with wins over Serbia and Switzerland.

Even a defeat would not stop them topping the section so long as the Swiss fail to win at the same time against Serbia, but France have already shown that changing most of your starting line-up does not necessarily work out.

The holders made nine changes for their final group game against Tunisia on Wednesday and put in a disjointed performance in a 1-0 defeat.
Cameroun is trying to advance past the group stage for the first time since its run to the quarterfinals in 1990, when a squad led by striker, Roger Milla, was eliminated by England in extra time in the tournament in Italy. Cameroun did not qualify for the last World Cup in Russia four years ago.

On his team’s chances against the five-time World champions, Cameroun coach, Rigobert Song, said: “We will be focused and very disciplined for the whole 90 minutes. I want to see the determination and commitment that will allow us to get the three points.”

Cameroun opened their campaign with a loss to Switzerland and then drew with Serbia. And theoretically, they stand a chance in the final group game because of all the changes expected in the Brazil squad.

Tite planned to use only reserve players, starting with Ederson replacing Alisson in goal. Veteran Dani Alves was among those coming into the defence, while Fabinho was set to play in the midfield. Antony and Gabriel Martinelli are expected to be added to the attack.

“Brazil has 26 players of a very high level,” Tite said. “And we have a great team in general.” Neymar, right back Danilo and left back Alex Sandro were not available because of injuries. Neymar was still treating his right ankle injury and it remained unclear when he would return.

The 39-year-old Alves could become the oldest Brazilian to play at a World Cup, ahead of the 38-year-old Thiago Silva, who is Brazil’s captain in Qatar. Alves’ last game at a World Cup was in the round of 16 of the 2014 tournament in Brazil. The right back was injured ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Cameroun need to beat Brazil and pray that Serbia and Switzerland draw to make the last 16. The Indomitable Lions can still make it if Serbia defeat Switzerland by two goals or less. A Switzerland win automatically knocks out the Africans.

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