Belgium have fallen to their most famous loss in history as Morocco brushed them aside in the second match of their Group F fixtures in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The Atlas Lions were statistically weaker than Belgium, who are ranked second in the world behind Brazil, but current form had all to do with the Africans finishing as victors in the game. A sad incident occurred just before kickoff, as star goalkeeper Yassine Bounou had to be taken off minutes after kickoff thanks to a small discomfort picked up during the pre-match warmups.
But Munir Mohand Mohamedi, who replaced the Sevilla goalkeeper, put in an amazing shift between the sticks to keep the Belgians out and earn a clean sheet. In attack, the Africans showed more bite than the Europeans, who struggled to keep them out for most of the game.
Thibaut Courtois had a game to forget, as did many of Belgium’s big names. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Michy Batshuayi and Axel Witsel were standouts in the side but failed to produce any outstanding performances to help their side earn a second victory and become the second team to qualify for the round of 16.
Morocco have now joined Senegal as the only African teams to win so far at the 2022 FIFA World Cup to the delight of their fans at the Al Thumama stadium and the millions watching back home in Morocco and all across Africa.
Morocco overrun Belgium in surprise game
Morocco’s performance against Belgium can be said to be a shock because of the history between both sides, the teams’ FIFA rankings, and the statistical berth between both teams.
However, to the untrained eye, it would look like Belgium had always been inferior to Morocco. The Red Devils and their golden generation could not muster attacks that troubled Mohamedi as much as those watching expected. The Atlas Lions’ centre-back pairing of Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd was also very impressive and worked very hard to keep the Belgians out.
Belgium controlled possession, which also meant that they had more passes completed and more corner kicks. However, Morocco made sure to maximise their 33 percent possession to create better chances as they hit Belgium on the break every chance they got.
The first half ended on a dull note but changes from Walid Regragui, whose appointment was met with trepidation as it came only months before the tournament, proved to be the game-changer.
Hakim Ziyech’s first-half goal which was disallowed was also a key moment. The Chelsea man scored directly from a free kick but it was ruled out as Saiss had strayed offside in a bid to help steer the ball past Courtois in the Belgium net.
The substitutes continued the fine work of Morocco as Abdelhamid Sabiri opened the scoring with his own direct free kick before Zakaria Aboukhlal sealed the three points after finishing brilliantly from a Ziyech assist.
Belgium never looked to be in charge of the game from start to finish, despite controlling the possession. Their work is now cut out for Roberto Martinez, who will hope that Croatia does not get a result that will damn them against Canada.
Morocco, meanwhile, will look forward to meeting Canada to seal their fourth World Cup win.