Home Sport Five takeaways from Morocco’s shock win over Belgium

Five takeaways from Morocco’s shock win over Belgium

Five takeaways from Morocco’s shock win over Belgium

Cape Town — Morocco achieved the improbably on Sunday afternoon when they stunned Belgium 2-0 to shoot to the top of Group F after two matches.

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IOL Sport’s Herman Gibbs looks at five takeaways from the game that has left the group wide open with just one round of matches to play.

Spectacular, astounding…

Spectacular Morocco shocked the 201semi-finalists with the greatest result in their World Cup history, after scoring two second-half goals in their Group F clash at the Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.

No one would have predicted a 2-0 win for Morocco, since Belgium are No 2 on the world rankings. A few months ago they were No 1, while their north African opponents are 22 on the rankings.

The first of the two goals emerged in the 73rd minute when Morocco were awarded a free-kick just outside the Belgium penalty area. Former Huddersfield player Abdelhamid Sabiri was able to bend his free-kick just enough to see it fly past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, as the manic Morocco fans in the stadium erupted with wild excitement.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Toulouse striker Zakaria Aboukhlal scored from an audaciously tight angle to seal the win for Morocco.

Super subs, super goals …

Both teams used their full quota of five substitutes in the match. However, it turned out that Morocco's five had the desired impact and two went on to intervene with great authority and changed the course of the match.

Sabiri, who replaced midfielder Selim Amallah in the 68th minute, scored five minutes after coming on. He scored Morocco’s first-ever direct free-kick goal at the World Cup, while it was the first direct free-kick goal scored by any nation at 2022 World Cup.

Aboukhlal was a replacement for striker Sofiane Boufal in the 74th minute. He scored two minutes into stoppage time to crown Morocco’s greatest World Cup win.

Premier League teams Leicester City and Southampton are keeping close tabs on Aboukhlal.

Just for kicks, 24 years later …

Both Belgium and Morocco had 10 shots at goal but Morocco, with four, had one more on target than the Europeans who enjoyed a whopping 67% possession, but were unable to impose themselves on proceedings.

Belgium had nine corner kicks against one from Morocco.

It was Morocco’s first World Cup win since 1998, when they defeated Scotland 3-0. The team also won 3-1 in 1986 against Portugal. They made it to the knockout round that year, for their only appearance beyond the group phase.

Bono, oh no, no no, no show …

Morocco goalkeeper Bono took part in the pre-match national anthem, but fell ill and was replaced at the last minute by Munir Mohamedi just before the kick-off.

Backup goalkeeper Mohamedi produced a few brilliant saves to keep a clean sheet. Not all the media noticed the change and it confused viewers. One major television broadcaster had referred to Mohamedi as Bono for the first 38 minutes of the match.

Yassine Bounou, also known as Bono, is a Canadian-Moroccan who plays for La Liga side Sevilla. He has spent most of his career in Spain, making over 100 La Liga appearances.

What now for the Atlas Lions after mauling the Red Devils …

Morocco's Atlas Lions have moved to the top of Group F after mauling Belgium's Red Devils on Sunday and are still undefeated after two matches.

At this stage, they top Group F and should they win their final group match they will end up as group winners. If this happens, it will be the first time that an African team has ended up as group winners at the World Cup.

Morocco have two clean sheets after two games and will play Canada in their final group match on Thursday.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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