World Cup: Morocco Shocked Belgium In Group F By Beating Roberto Martinez's Side 2-0

There will not be a louder noise in the group stages of this World Cup than the one that greeted Morocco’s two goals here. Half of Casablanca seemed to be inside the Al Thumama Stadium to witness them. As for Roberto Martinez’s abject Belgium side, all they can hear now is the jangling of their own nerves.


This was a victory thoroughly deserved by the north African side. The thousands of Morocco supporters who here to live through it will never forget the moment in the 73rd minute when substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri deceived Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a free-kick whipped in at the near post and in to the net. 


The explosion of noise and colour was immediate and prolonged. And in injury time there was to be another, this time created by Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech for substitute Zakaria Aboukhlal. Downtown Doha will be painted red and green tonight.


Belgium, fancied once again to make an impact at this tournament, will have to improve and do so quickly. They were poor in beating Canada in their opening game and were pretty dreadful again here. At times Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne simply looked exasperated at the efforts of those around him and things must turn round fast if they are to secure a passage in to the next phase of the competition with victory over Croatia on Thursday.


Before this tournament, Belgium carried a FIFA ranking of two, just behind Brazil. But there was a fear that their defensive partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld may wilt in the desert heat. They are 35 and 33 respectively and although they were not the only weak link in the Belgian chain, it appears that De Bruyne’s pre-match suggestion that Belgium are too old to win a World Cup may have some foundation in truth.


Morocco carried a threat all afternoon. Happy to sit and soak up what was largely pretty unimaginative pressure from Belgium, the African’s broke forward at speed whenever they could. Make no mistake that, after a scoreless draw against Croatia first time out, this was a game they fully intended to win.


They thought they had taken the lead just before half-time when Ziyech’s free-kick from wide on the right deceived Courtois and bounced off him in to the net at the near post. That one was disallowed when VAR replays showed Romain Saiss – once of Southampton – standing in an offside position directly in front of the goalkeeper.


That was the right call. Saiss had to duck to allow the ball to pass over him. How odd though that when Morocco did take the lead almost half an hour of play later, it was from an almost identical routine.


This time the free-kick came from the left but the angles were almost identical. Once again the ball was whipped towards the near post – this time by Sabiri – and once again Courtois had now answer to it whatsoever.


Morocco deserved the lead and celebrated appropriately. Predictably, Belgium threw what they had at their opponents. Romelu Lukaku, injured recently, was on the field by the end.


But Martinez’s team seem to lack the belief and cohesion of old and when the game’s second goal did arrive in the second minute of added time, it was the underdogs who scored it.


A long kick down the field wasn’t dealt with by the Belgian defence and it was not for the first time. On this occasion, a white shirt managed to work the ball right to Ziyech and when he pulled it back, Aboukhlal clipped it high above Courtois and in to the roof of the net.


Earlier in the game, Belgium had fashioned the occasional chance but none of them very clear. Eden Hazard is captain of his team but his football is laboured these days. Up front Michy Batshuayi carried almost no threat at all.


Before the kick off Morocco had changed their goalkeeper after their number one Bruno felt unwell during the anthems. His replacement Munir El Kajoui was a steadying presence but was only really worked from range.


Belgium, frankly, 

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