Today’s game is going to be about making lasting impressions and history making. Better that than history repeating.
While Canada won’t be going any further than this game, their coach John Herdman, has encouraged his team to continue to make history when they face Morocco.
Their objective is to win their first game in a World Cup and not simply drop out winless like they did against Mexico in 1986. At least before today’s game, they can say that they scored their first goal in a World Cup.
Morocco is after its own bit of history. The Atlas Lions could be on course to repeat their 1986 accolade of keeping a clean sheet in their opening games, this year’s team could also be the second to progress to the Knock-out stages of the tournament (also 1986).
Likewise, Morocco has demonstrated itself to be a formidable opponent against two of the best footballing nations, Croatia and Belgium.
This World Cup was Morocco’s first time against Croatia and they were able to hold them at bay, forcing a draw. At the same time, this was also the first time Morocco had faced Belgium in the World Cup and it shocked the world with a 2 – 0 win against the Red Devils.
When asked about heading into the next round, Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui said that his team ‘haven’t done anything yet’ and that ‘They’re ready to die for it.’.
Head to head
Canada has played Morocco 3 previous times in all competitions but has never won against them. Their most notable loss against the Atlas Lions was their 4 – 0 friendly in Marrakech, in October 2016.
Even if Morocco lose to Canada, Morocco could still be in with a chance of qualifying for the second round. This would require Croatia to fumble against Belgium though.
Morocco won’t make it easy for Canada to build an attack.
The team focus on a diamond shaped offensive block composed of 4 players forming the points of the diamond and two players behind the front line to intercept attacks or passes from the opposing team. In the case of Belgium, it meant that when building an attack, they had to launch balls across the flanks.
Add in Morocco’s exceptional man-marking and Canada will have an issue getting enough ‘free’ players into the box to receive the cross.
Morocco also focuses a lot on its defensive lines. During key build ups in Croatia and Belgium’s attacks, Morocco favoured a defensive 1-4-1-4 posture, which helped protect the goal line from the likes of De Bruyne or Modric from penetrating.
Pressure and Negative Possession. Getting back to the Diamond for a moment… both Belgium and Croatia had the majority of the possession during their games but it didn’t always translate into an attack. The diamond as mentioned earlier, put a lot of pressure on the Croatian and Belgian defence, forcing them to kick over the Moroccan front line to connect with their forwards.
Who to watch:
The Moroccan captain is a dangerous player when he can connect his crosses to the likes of Abdelhamid Sabiri or winning the aerial duel. He also managed to clear 11 of the team’s 21 clearances during the Belgium game.
Can Canada make history today? That remains to be seen.