Match report as Romain Saiss broke the deadlock with a clever free-kick, beating Thibaut Courtois at his near post; Zakaria Aboukhlal put the icing on the cake in second-half stoppage time, sending Morocco temporarily top of Group F; Roberto Martinez: We lost our composure.
Morocco defeated FIFA‘s second-ranked team Belgium in their third World Cup match, thanks to goals from Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal. In the 73rd minute, Abdelhamid Sabiri’s free-kick found the net via Saiss from an impressively tight angle, beating Thibaut Courtois at his near post, before Aboukhlal converted Hakim Ziyech’s delivery to seal a memorable victory in the second-half stoppage time.
Belgium 0-2 Morocco
The North Africans join Saudi Arabia and Japan, the conquerors of Argentina and Germany, in defying the odds and shocking opponents who have traditionally enjoyed long-established success on the global stage. Belgium is not doomed, but they may need to beat Croatia in a Group F match to advance to the last 16 – both of those nations were on the podium in Russia only four years ago.
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Walid Regragui’s spirited team also had the ball in the net with the final kick of the first half, as Ziyech’s free-kick eluded everyone in the penalty area, catching Courtois off guard, but a VAR review determined captain Romain Saiss had strayed offside, disrupting Courtois’ eye-line.
Belgium was laborious throughout, offering little threat from their star strikers, as Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and brother Thorgan were all stifled by Morocco’s steely determination. “We lost our cool,” admitted head coach Roberto Martinez.
The notion that this is a tournament beyond the reach of Martinez’s supposed “golden generation,” the majority of whom are now approaching 30 and were labeled “too old” by De Bruyne ahead of this game, is beginning to ring increasingly true. Jan Vertonghen shot back at that sentiment, saying, “Where did it go wrong? We probably also attack poorly because we are too old; surely that must be it now?
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Morocco had failed to score in 53% of their World Cup matches prior to their meeting with the heavily favored Europeans, who had not lost a group game since 1994. The game started in the manner that most would have expected, aided by Morocco’s forced change of goalkeeper moments before kickoff, replacing Yassine Bounou with Munir El Kajoui.
Morocco had failed to score in 53% of their World Cup games prior to their meeting with the heavily favored Europeans, who had not lost a group game since 1994. The game started in an expected manner, aided by Morocco’s forced goalkeeper change moments before kickoff, replacing Yassine Bounou with Munir El Kajoui. Morocco’s players were undaunted by the setback, as Sofian Boufal and Ziyech grew in prominence before Sabiri’s right-footed free-kick was glanced past a despairing Courtois by Saiss, who, unlike the Chelsea winger’s delivery 30 minutes earlier, managed to make contact.
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