ANALYSIS – Canada lose to Morocco by a score of 2-1, which means that Les Rouges go home with no points in the group, but plenty of lessons and experience that will help them on the road to 2026.
Canada finished at rock bottom of the group with a goal difference of -5, which on paper looked to represent an abysmal performance. However, there was much to be proud of in how the Canadians played, but also much to learn from when playing at the highest levels.
Canada Lose To Morocco as They Bow Out of the World Cup
Horror Start Showed Lack of Experience
Canada was going into this game playing only for pride, and for history. With Alphonso Davies already scoring their first-ever World Cup goal, the Boys in Red were hunting for their first points on the table.
However, their night began atrociously. A poor back-pass from Steven Vitoria to a late arriving Borjan put the keeper in a sticky situation, but no one expected the 72-capped shot-stopper to pass the ball straight to Hakim Ziyech. The Chelsea man was the last player Canada wanted to receive that ball, as he gracefully lobbed it over Borjan in no-mans land, and into the back of the net. All within the opening four minutes.
Canada then tried to rally back but seemed nervous and frustrated, often forcing plays into crowded areas and giving cheap giveaways. It was once again Canada’s Achilles heel in the overhead through ball that led to Morocco’s second, as El-Nesyri held off Miller and Vitoria to pounce on the long ball and fire through Borjan.
It was the worst possible start from a team that, at least in the opening minutes of the previous two games, looked solid and organized. Whether it was the tweak in tactics or the lack of anything tangible to play for, Canada looked far from the side that qualified for this tournament earlier in the year.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 1, 2022
Improved Second-Half-Showed Character
For as badly as Canada started, they nevertheless got a lifeline at the end of the first half, when Sam Adekugbe whipped a cross in that deflected twice before rolling into the Moroccan net.
Canada took that momentum into the second half, and after some much-need tactical changes in bringing on Atiba Hutchinson and Ismael Koné alongside Jonathan David, looked to be the better side. The switch into a three-man midfield looked to have given Canada some more control, and they looked to play in a similar way to how they opened versus Belgium and Croatia.
Unfortunately, just as in those previous games, they lacked that cutting edge that is so crucial against these top teams, and could not capitalize on their improved performance. The only real chance came from the person who arguably deserved a goal more than anyone, Atiba Hutchinson.
A Hoilett corner was met well by the stalwart captain, who headed it straight onto the crossbar, which ricocheted down but not over the line before Alistair Johnston’s second effort flew high of the margin.
Canada still did not back down and showed fight and determination throughout the rest of the half. Which the tactical switches, they looked to settle the play more, move it across the pitch, and actually penetrate Morocco’s holding midfield line. But for all their good effort, the final whistle blew to Moroccan delight as they qualified for the knockout stages for the first time since 1986; coincidentally, the same year Canada last made a World Cup.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 1, 2022
Lesson Given, Lessons Taken as Canada Lose to Morocco
It seemed that both Head Coach John Herdman and his players got some humbling lessons in this game, and throughout the tournament.
The decision once more to start a midfield pivot against a midfield trio proved to be part of Canada’s downfall once more, as Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio were overrun and overwhelmed in that midfield for the entire first half. The decision to also start Davies on the right was mind-boggling, as the Bayern Munich star looked awkward on that side and often lost out possession by trying to cut in onto his favoured left side.
The defence, which looked rock-solid in qualifying, fell flat once more today, as a poor back pass from the seemingly evergreen Steven Vitoria led to the first goal, and the switching off from both him and Kamal Miller led to the second. At this level, you have to be 100 percent concentrated 100 percent of the time, or else you will get punished. And with a final goal difference of -5, Canada sure learned that lesson.
The performance at the end gives positive signs for the future of this team, especially in the performances of young players such as Ismael Koné, but it also shows how far this team needs to grow to be properly competitive in 2026,
Looking to 2026 and Beyond
Although Canada goes home today with nothing but two goals to its name (one of which was an own goal), they do not go home in shame.
They showed grit and tenacity at many stages and gave Belgium and even Croatia in the early stages of that game, a proper scare. Perhaps the biggest lesson they learned is how fine the margins are on the world’s biggest stage, but they will look to close that gap in the next four years.
Regardless of the result, this team brought national soccer pride back to Canada, and they have set the stage for a hopefully long and fruitful future in the World Cup.
And that is a win in itself.
For the country.
For the badge.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) December 1, 2022