Dubai: Belgium looked lacklustre in their opener against Canada and against Morocco tonight they were even worse. Roberto Martinez’s men were fortunate to win their first match 1-0 but against Morocco they were well off the pace from the start.
It is the second consecutive match now where they have lacked any identity. They showed no spark or desire to win this game.
Morocco reignited their World Cup campaign and gave us another memorable moment in what is turning out to be a tournament full of shocks. The number of upsets has been extraordinary. First it was Saudi Arabia. Then Japan. Now Morocco. Belgium are currently second in the FIFA world rankings, while Morocco are 22nd. But it looked like Morocco were the second ranked side such was their quality. Many expected Belgium to turn up and win at a canter but they found it impossible to get through this well-drilled Moroccan side.
They were absolutely outstanding. They kept Belgium at bay, especially their key players Eden Hazzard and Kevin de Bruyne who they targeted to ensure they couldn’t get any space or time on the ball. Morocco followed their game plan perfectly. They defended resolutely and stayed in shape. Then they hit the Belgiums on the break.
There has been a lot of talk about the Red Devils and the fact they are an ageing team. From what we have seen so far in their first two games, it is all true. Time appears to be up for their golden generation. De Bruyne is exactly like Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in that both are world-class players in top club sides but when it comes to international level their respective countries just aren’t at the same quality level that their clubs are.
The Man City man was not quite on it yet again and was unable to effect this game like you would expect him to.
Morocco grew more and more into the game and looked good going forwards. In Achraf Hakimi they have a serious talent. The Paris St-Germain right-back kept getting in behind and was a nuisance for the Belgium defenders throughout.
They got the first goal after Abdelhamid Sabiri whipped in a free kick into the near post and the ball beat Thibaut Courtois and the Al Thumama Stadium erupted. It had been coming. Coach Walid Regragui, who took over Morocco in September after Vahid Halilhodzic was fired, tried his best to calm his players but he looked as surprised as everyone else. He has done an amazing job in his short time in charge. This was his sixth game and the team have kept clean sheets in all six games. That is incredible. Then, a goal kick was flicked on once and then again by Zakaria Aboukhlal. The ball was gathered by Hakim Ziyech, who twisted and turned, and then cut the ball back for Aboukhlal who smashed it into the roof of the net.
Morocco started their World Cup campaign with a goalless draw against Croatia and have now recorded one of their most memorable victories of all time. The group is wide open and with Canada up next, they will fancy their chances of making the last 16.