Morocco wins first FIFA World Cup game since 1998 after defeat of Belgium

Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal scored both the goals in Morocco’s win over Belgium in the FIFA World Cup.

Morocco‘s Zakaria Aboukhlal celebrates scoring their second goal.

Morocco‘s Zakaria Aboukhlal celebrates scoring their second goal. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal scored both the goals in Morocco’s win over Belgium in the FIFA World Cup.

The Belgium national team is “too old”, Kevin De Bruyne rightly said. In its second World Cup game it was phlegmatic once more, and Thibaut Courtois, too, looks fallible playing with men who have lost most of their extraordinary talents.

Here he misjudged and let a free-kick from Abdelhamid Sabiri slip past his grasp in the 73rd minute in Morocco’s 2-0 win at the Al Thumama Stadium to help move the north African nation to the top of the Group F table

Earlier, he had fumbled and let in a Hakim Ziyech free-kick during the dying seconds of the first half, with only technology coming to his rescue as VAR found Romain Saiss fractionally offside.

Morocco was content to cede possession, but always had a threat when galloping forward, Achraf Hakimi regularly running up the right touchline leaving Belgium a little winded. Sofiane Boufal made the most of Thomas Meunier’s dodgy reading of an aerial ball to find Ziyech inside the Belgium box. His cutback, however, was wasted as Selim Amallah skyed his shot with a couple of minutes left for the half-hour mark. Hakimi soon charged behind the slow Belgium defence, but the shot again was meant for the heavens.

Eden Hazard finally found flashes of his old self to earn a corner after scooting past a challenge from Azzedine Ounahi to test the goalkeeper from distance with seven second half minutes already played.

Dries Mertens, just in, almost had the goal that this contest was looking for as he hopped past the impeding legs to hit a crisp volley from outside the box – Munir El-Kajoui, a last-minute stand-in for a surprisingly missing Yassine Bounou, was alert enough to push away the danger.

Morocco’s pluckiness finally had its sweetener as Courtois was fooled by substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri’s free-kick from the left that eluded his outstretched palm to slip through his inside post. Saiss again a nuisance around the Belgian keeper was not offside. 

The other goal came in the second minute of stoppage time as Belgium showed no interest to clear a long goal kick from El-Kajoui and the ball found its way to Ziyech. He sidestepped his marker to pass it on to Zakaria Aboukhlal, and his shot from close quarters crashed into the roof of the net. 

This was no World Cup classic but it’s a game Morocco will never forget.

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