Morocco stun Belgium in another World Cup 2022 shock

Roared on by a sea of red and green in the stands, Morocco hold on for only their third ever World Cup win.

Morocco's shut-out of Belgium provokes celebrations in the stands and on the pitch [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Morocco have taken a massive stride towards qualification for the round of 16 after a 2-0 win over Belgium.

Morocco showed great resolve in keeping Belgium at bay for a majority of the game on Sunday and took the lead through substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri’s free kick in the 73rd minute.

The final 20 minutes saw Belgium ramp up the pressure in search of a goal, but Walid Regragui’s side held on firmly and went down the other end to double their lead in injury time thanks to Zakaria Aboukhlal.

It was a raucous atmosphere at Al Thumama Stadium with the 44,000 sell-out crowd predominantly made up of Morocco fans. Roared on by this sea of red and green, Morocco gave its fans an evening they’ll never forget.

Earlier, Morocco were dealt a blow after the national anthems when goalkeeper Yassine Bounou appeared to gesture he would not be able to play.

belgium vs morocco
Zakaria Aboukhlal scored the second goal for Morocco in injury time [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Belgium dominated the early exchanges, but clear-cut chances were at a premium. Morocco found the back of the net through a Hakim Ziyech free kick late in the half, but it was disallowed after Romain Saïss was judged to be offside.

Sofiane Boufal almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after a jinking run but bent the ball narrowly wide of the far post.

Roberto Martinez Montoliu made two changes on the hour mark, replacing the ineffective Eden Hazard with Dries Mertens and bringing on Youri Tielemans for Amadou Onana in midfield.

Mertens almost made an immediate impact when his strike from just outside the area was beaten away by Moroccan goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi.

The breakthrough came in the 73rd minute when Sabiri’s smart free kick just five minutes after coming on outfoxed Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois to spark scenes of unbridled joy.

Belgium threw all caution to the wind in their pursuit of an equaliser, but in injury time, Morocco broke on the counter, and Ziyech squared the ball for Aboukhlal, who fired into the top corner.

It was Morocco’s third win at a World Cup, and they now sit top of Group F. If they avoid defeat in their final game against Canada, they’ll seal their spot in the round of 16 for only the second time in their history.

Belgium’s qualification to the round of 16 is in jeopardy as they face 2018 finalists Croatia in their final group game.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera