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Morocco's 3-0 Win Not Enough to Advance

By Robert Millward
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 1998; 6:14 p.m. EDT




SAINT-ETIENNE, France — Morocco's players wept on the field after a 3-0 World Cup victory over Scotland on Tuesday. They had plenty more to cry about when they discovered it wasn't enough to get them into the second round.

Coach Henri Michel hugged each of his players as the news reached the Geoffrey Guichard Stadium that Norway had beaten defending champion Brazil to hold onto the second qualifying spot in Group A.

At one stage, the Moroccans were heading for a comfortable victory and the Norwegians were losing in Marseille. But two late Norwegian goals made all Morocco's gallant efforts heartbreakingly meaningless.

The result also left the Scots out in the first round for the eighth time in a row.

Brazil won the group ahead of Norway, with the Moroccans third and Scotland, which has never made the second round, last.

``All of us, we and the players, are extremely disappointed,'' Michel said. ``I want to pay tribute to an excellent and an outstanding team and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.

``Morocco has shown the world that we were playing an excellent World Cup and deserved to be here.''

Scottish coach Craig Brown said he was upset with the goals his defense allowed.

``You can't give goals away at this level as we did and hope to survive. We gave away two terrible goals,'' he said.

``I'm very disappointed, particularly for the wonderful supporters who have come here.''

Salaheddine Bassir and Abdeljilil Hadda punished the sleeping Scottish defense with strikes in the 22nd and 47th minutes and Bassir added a third goal five minutes from the end.

It was a fully deserved victory for Michel's team, who lost to Brazil, but tied Norway. But it had such a sad ending.

The noisy band of Moroccan fans cheered wildly as each goal went in and the expectancy of a second-round place rose. At the end, they were as despondant as the huge ``Tartan Army'' of Scots who made Saint-Etienne seem like Glasgow.

The Moroccans went ahead in the 22nd minute when Tahar El-Khalej aimed a high ball over the top of the slow-moving Scottish defense. Bassir got clear of Colin Hendry to fire a powerful, angled left-footed shot between goalkeeper Jim Leighton and his near post.

Two minutes into the second half the Moroccans struck again with a breakaway goal.

El Moustafa Hadji fired another long pass and Hadda outran defender David Weir in a dash down the left side. Hadda got in front of Weir and tried an audacious lob. Leighton got his fingertips to the ball, but turned and chased it as it bounced agonizingly behind him into the empty net.

It was even worse for Scotland seven minutes later when Craig Burley was shown a red card for a tackle from behind on Bassir.

Though hugely outnumbered by the Scots in the stadium, the noisy Moroccans began chanting ``Brazil, Brazil'' to compare their team with the mighty four-time Cup winner.

With the one-man advantage and a two-goal lead, the Moroccans cleverly kept possession and allowed the Scots few chances.

They added a third goal when Hadda flicked a pass to Bassir, who lobbed the ball over Weir and fired home from 12 yards, the ball deflecting slightly off Hendry's knee.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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