Morocco stun Belgium to keep World Cup hopes alive

Morocco stun Belgium to keep World Cup hopes alive

Morocco produced the latest Qatar 2022 surprise by beating Belgium to boost their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds for the first time since 1986.

  • Two substitutes make the difference with late goals
  • Belgium suffer first group-stage defeat since 1994
  • The group concludes on Thursday with Croatia v Belgium and Canada v Morocco

Belgium 0-2 Morocco | Group F

Match review

Goalscorers: Abdelhamid Sabiri (73), Zakaria Aboukhlal (90+2)

Morocco gave their hopes of progress to the round of 16 of Qatar 2022 a huge boost by shocking Belgium on Sunday, winning 2-0 through late goals by substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal.

Sabiri broke the deadlock on 73 minutes with a free-kick – the first direct set piece scored at this FIFA World Cup™ – swung in from a position wide on the left, just a metre or two from the touchline, which beat Thibaut Courtois at his near post. 

Aboukhlal then ended any doubt by flashing a shot past Courtois from a cutback by the impressive Hakim Ziyech.

Roberto Martinez’s 2018 semi-finalists would have progressed to the last 16 with a victory, but as in their narrow opening win over Canada, they failed to find top gear and may now have to beat Croatia in their last group game to qualify. For now, Morocco sit top of Group F with four points, with Croatia and Canada meeting later in the day.

The north Africans have not reached the knockout rounds since 1986, when they beat Portugal 3-1 to get there. Yet they are superbly disciplined and with a game against Canada to come, they will believe in their chances of going further after what was their first victory at the World Cup since beating Scotland 3-0 in 1998.

Morocco had to make a last-minute change to their starting XI when goalkeeper Yassine Bounou pulled out after the anthems – for reasons not yet specified – and was replaced by Monir Al Kajoui. The understudy made an early save to settle any nerves when smothering a Michy Batshuayi attempt at close range.

Morocco had the majority of the crowd at Al Thumama Stadium on their side and they thought they had given them a goal to celebrate in stoppage time at the end of the first half when Ziyech whipped in a free-kick from wide on the right that beat Courtois at his near post. However, Romain Saiss, standing right in front of the goalkeeper, was ruled offside after a VAR check. Saiss would repeat the trick of obscuring Courtois’ view for the breakthrough goal.

Before then, Belgium had had another scare 10 minutes after the break when Sofiane Boufal cut in from the left and shot just past the far post. The Red Devils’ reprieve would be brief, however, as they fell to their first loss in the group stage of the World Cup since Saudi Arabia beat them at USA 94.

Key moment

Sabiri’s introduction after 68 minutes was his cue to spark arguably Morocco’s greatest World Cup victory. He still has not started a game for his country but took just five minutes to score the most important goal of his life on what was his fourth international outing, catching Courtois by surprise at his near post.

Key stat

Morocco have now gone six games without conceding.

@FIFA.com – Connect with us @football_sierra on Facebook, African Football News.

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Senegal beat host Qatar to register first World Cup win

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Senegal become the first African side at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to register a victory.

They survived a late scare to overcome persistent Qatar. The West African open up a two-goal advantage with strikes on either side of half-time

Mohammad Muntari hit back with Qatar’s first World Cup goal. Bamba Dieng wrapped up points with a late effort

Match recap – Senegal survived a second-half fright to defeat hosts Qatar and open their Group A account at this intriguing World Cup.

Qatar was markedly improved on their opening-day showing against Ecuador but conceded goals to Boulaye Dia and Famara Diedhiou on either side of half-time.

Mohammad Muntari powered home a 78th-minute header to raise the possibility of an unlikely comeback. But Bamba Dieng swept home to ease Senegal’s nerves and complete a vital victory.

Key stat

Senegal hasn’t lost any of the five World Cup matches in which they have taken the lead (W3 D2).

Quotes

Senegal defender Youssouf Sabaly: “We managed to win, and it was important after a bad start. We’ll have a second chance. We have one more final to play, so; we’ll give everything.”

Player of the Match

Boulaye Dia

Qatar 1-3 Senegal | Group A

Goals: Senegal: Dia (41), Diédhiou (48), Dieng (84)

Qatar: Muntari (78)

 

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Morocco and Croatia play out goalless draw

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  • Next up: Belgium-Morocco and Croatia-Canada on 27 November

Morocco 0-0 Croatia | Group F

Thrills, spills and goals were sadly lacking at Al Bayt Stadium as Morocco and Croatia opened their Qatar 2022 campaigns with a forgettable 0-0 draw.

Chances were in short supply throughout a tense and evenly contested match, with Yassine Bono producing the one major save of note to keep out Nikola Vlasic’s effort late in the first half.

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Key moment

Given the scarcity of clear-cut chances, Vlasic’s effort on the stroke of half-time stood out. Ivan Perisic, who was largely subdued, did some good work in the build-up before Borna Sosa produced a fine cross. But while the on-loan Torino striker looked odds-on to score, Bono came up with a fine save to keep the scoreline blank.

Stat of the Match

By taking to the field 75 days after his 37th birthday, Luka Modric became the oldest Croatian ever to take part in a World Cup match. The Vatreni captain surpassed the record set by Drazen Ladic, who was 35 years and 191 days old – a comparative youngster – when he took the field against the Netherlands in 1998.

Player of the Match

Luka Modric

@FIFA.com

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The popular Mukansaga, 34, was the fourth official assisting South Africa’s Victor Gomes, the centre referee, Zakhele Siwela and Lothian Souru Phatsoane.

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