Morocco landed a big win over Belgium at the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Sunday to boost their chances of emerging from Group F. Substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal came off the bench to score twice in the final quarter of an hour at Al Thumama Stadium.
The Atlas Lions now have four points from a possible six having already faced Croatia and now the Belgians with Canada next up for Walid Regragui's side. The Red Devils, though, now need to beat Croatia in a battle between 2018's runners-up and third-placed sides which may well see one or both now going home early.
February 2022: Hakim Ziyech retires from Morocco's national team after row with then-manager Vahid Halilhodžić.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 27, 2022
August 2022: Halilhodžić is sacked and replaced by Walid Regragui. Ziyech rejoins team.
November 2022: Ziyech wins first World Cup Man of the Match 🏆 pic.twitter.com/t5XVY6xQLJ
It was a strange start in Doha with Moroccan goalkeeper Bono on the pitch for the anthem but then replaced by Munir in time for the team photo and kick-off due to illness. The latter was called into action early to deny Michy Batshuayi who had gotten in behind, but most of Belgium's attacking play was limited to the edge of the box as Thomas Meunier shot tamely on goal as well.
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Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was a rare example of confidence in Roberto Martinez's otherwise leggy starting XI and the Real Madrid man dazzled with the ball at his feet before Amadou Onana got himself suspended for the Croatia game. Courtois was picking the ball out of his net before half time but VAR ruled out Hakim Ziyech's ball in due to Romain Saiss' involvement.
Belgium looked more determined at the start of the second half and Eden Hazard forced a save out of Munir before the skipper went off. Sofiane Boufal then curled an effort inches wide of the post as Al Thumama Stadium waited for the opening goal. Lift-off came with 17 minutes left on the clock as substitute Sabiri curled the ball in from a fre kick which Courtois only saw late. With no interference from any Moroccan player this time, the goal stood and Regragui's men were in front to jubilant scenes in Doha.
The Belgians never looked likely to get themselves back into it after that as Jan Vertonghen headed wide from a corner in their best chance late on despite the introduction of a half-fit and out of shape Romelu Lukaku. In trying to chase the equalizer, the Red Devils left themselves open at the back and it was a question of time before Morocco exploited that.
Two minutes into added time Aboukhlal did just that when he fired home high into the net to double the Atlas Lions' lead to secure all three points. With four points from six now on the board, Canada is a crucial game for the Moroccans -- regardless of the Canucks' result against Croatia.
However, match day three is also a massive encounter for Belgium against the Croats in what could be a test of who has fallen furthest since the last World Cup given Zlatko Dalic's men are not exactly brimming with goals. Kevin De Bruyne's negative comments when on press duty earlier this week after a bit more understandable after such a pedestrian showing from Martinez's side.