Two things that stood out in Morocco’s 2-0 win over Belgium

A Belgium fan reacts at the end of the Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A Belgium fan reacts at the end of the Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images) /
Morocco Belgium
Morocco players celebrate their stunning win against Belgium on Sunday (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images) /

Morocco stunned Belgium 2-0 in a Group F match at the Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar on Sunday. Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal scored the goals for Morocco in the 73rd and 92nd minutes, respectively.

It was a shock defeat for Belgium as the string of upsets continued in the World Cup. Belgium’s so-called golden generation will now have to fight it out in a do-or-die match against Croatia next Thursday.

On that note, we take a look at two things that stood out in the match.

Belgium were the better team in the first half, but Morocco fought hard

Belgium started the match with a 4-5-1 formation, with their talismanic player Kevin De Bruyne shifting to the right flank often from his customary central attacking midfield position. Michy Batshuayi played as the lone striker as Eden Hazard tried to create moves from the middle third.

Morocco, meanwhile, relied on their combination of Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi down the right flank, which also meant that Belgium’s left-back Timothy Castagne could hardly go into overlaps and left winger Thorgan Hazard also had to fall back repeatedly into his own half.

Still, it was Belgium who attacked more and Batshuayi had his shot saved by Morocco’s goalkeeper after the former had received the ball from an Eden Hazard through pass.

However, Morocco were resolute with their defending with Sofyan Amrabat winning balls with hard tackles consistently.  De Bruyne kept playing the customary long balls and crosses, but the Morocco centre-backs stayed deep and did not allow the Belgians much leeway.

Morocco actually succeeded in breaking the deadlock from a free-kick by Hakim Ziyech, but the goal was ruled out as one of their players was in an offside position and had blocked Thibaut Courtois’ vision somewhat.

Belgium made a number of substitutions, but Morocco scored twice in the second half

Roberto Martinez made a number of substitutions in the second half, as the likes of Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Charles de Ketelaere were all introduced and the likes of Eden and Thorgan Hazard, Batshuayi and Mvom Onana were taken off.

However, Morocco attacked with a lot more positive intent in the second half and succeeded in taking a few shots at the Belgian goal. Belgium kept dominating ball-possession and Mertens’ inclusion added sting to their attack, but the Morocco defense could not be breached.

Still, it took yet another free-kick from Morocco to break the deadlock, this time from Sabiri, who had come in as a substitute. Sabiri’s in-swinging free-kick from the left had the ball bounce in front of Courtois, as the Belgian goalkeeper failed to parry it.

The goal shook Belgium up and they tried desperately for an equalizer, but De Bruyne often lacked support upfront and he had to fall back repeatedly to collect the ball and surge forward with it.

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Ziyech, influential with his deft touches upfront for Morocco, played a significant part in their second goal. With Belgium pushing hard for an equalizer, a long ball was played to Ziyech from inside the Morocco half and the 29-year-old midfielder played the ball across to an onrushing Aboukhlal, who shot first time to beat Courtois and thereby seal Morocco’s victory.