African football continues to stand up and be counted this winter at the 2022 World Cup as Morocco has emerged as the shock winner of Group F after their 2-1 win over Canada sees Ousud Al-atlas join Senegal in the round of sixteen.
Goals from Chelsea outcast Hakim Ziyech and Sevilla star striker Youssef En-Nesyri were enough to seal all three points for Morocco despite a Nayef Aguerd own-goal five minutes before the half-time interval, pushing the Atlas Lions into the knockout stage for just the second time in what is their sixth appearance at the World Cup.
Walid Regragui’s outfit was on the outside looking in before a ball was ever struck in anger in Qatar after FiveThirtyEight gave Morocco just a 46% chance to reach the knockout stages, with seventeen other nations boasting better percentage odds for advancement.
The data behind their performances across all five group stage matches support those initial findings as well after Morocco failed to achieve a superior xG over Canada or Belgium in both of their group stage wins, while their collective xG performance was the second-lowest of any team to feature at the World Cup at the time of writing.
Moreover, Morocco has averaged just ~36% of the ball across their group stage performances despite some of the talents on offer in their current squad, proving that a swashbuckling counter-attack schematic is still incredibly viable during tournament play.
But tournament play is all about moments that matter and the chances that you take, and in that vein, Morocco have earned their place in the next round after standing toe-to-toe with two of the top sides anywhere in the world in Belgium - ranked second by FIFA - and a Croatian side that reached the final four years ago in Russia.
There is no telling if Morocco can go on to make history and reach the quarterfinals for the first time, but rest assured, they are where they are on merit, no matter what the data tells you.