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FIFAWC 2022: Morocco stun Belgium, throw group open with win

Morocco secured a huge victory as they stunned Belgium 2-0 with two second-half goals to go top of Group F after the second round of matches. The Atlas Lions defeated the second-best team in the world to boost their chances of reaching the knockout stages.

With both sides looking to gain a foothold in their group, they came face to face at the Al Thumama Stadium. Morocco had held Croatia to a stalemate in their opener as Belgium edged Canada narrowly.

The Red Devils showed their quality from the get-go and ran the show from the start of the match as the African side struggled to keep up. The game’s first real chance fell to Belgium striker Michy Batshuayi but the Fenerbahce man fluffed his lines and shot straight at the goalkeeper from close range.

Morocco thought they had gone in front on the cusp of half-time as Hakim Ziyech struck a free kick from out wide into the back of the net despite Thibaut Courtois getting a touch. The VAR ruled out the goal as Morocco captain Roman Saiss had crossed the keeper’s line of sight from an offside position.

After both sides struggled to fashion clear-cut openings in the second half, the game finally came to life in the final 20 minutes.

Morocco won a free kick on the opposite side to where Ziyech scored from in the first half and this time, AbdelHamid Sabiri did enough to whip his effort past Courtois from 30m out to open the scoring after 73 minutes. Incidentally, it was the first goal scored from a direct free kick at the 2022 World Cup.

With the match running towards its end, the Atlas Lions delivered the sucker punch to go with the brilliant performance they had displayed. An opportunistic foray forward saw Ziyech pick up the ball in the box before showing good composure to pick out Zakaria Aboukhlal, whose first-time effort from inside the box went straight into the top corner.

Morocco have now won only the third match ever in their FIFA World Cup history and sit atop their group. The Atlas Lions have a good chance of reaching the knockout stages for the first time in their history when they face Canada in the final group game.

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