FIFA World Cup 2022 | Morocco subs strike late to earn shock win over Belgium

Sabiri’s freekick and Aboukhlal’s late strike gave Morocco only their third FIFA World Cup finals win and first ever since 1998

November 27, 2022 05:49 pm | Updated 09:58 pm IST

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 27: Zakaria Aboukhlal (L) of Morocco celebrates after scoring their team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 27: Zakaria Aboukhlal (L) of Morocco celebrates after scoring their team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pre-match build-up: Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku was again left out of the starting line-up as he recovers from a hamstring injury but coach Roberto Martinez made three changes to his side for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Group F clash with Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.

Tall midfielder Amadou Onana started in the place of Youri Tielemans having impressed off the bench in the 1-0 win over Canada, while Thorgan Hazard, brother of captain Eden, comes in for Yannick Carrasco. Right back Thomas Meunier was preferred to Leander Dendoncker.

Morocco was unchanged from the 0-0 draw with Croatia as left-back Noussair Mazraoui has recovered from a hip injury sustained in that game.

Belgium was hoping to qualify for the last 16 with a victory.

First half: Morocco was denied a goal on the stroke of halftime for offside when Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick ended up in the back of the net, and they went into the break locked at 0-0 with Belgium in their World Cup Group F fixture at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.

Belgium had the better chance up to that point after Morocco made a mystery change of goalkeeper minutes before kick-off when they replaced Yassine Bounou with Munir El Kajoui, who made a smart early save to deny Belgium forward Michy Batshuayi. 

Second half: Abdelhamid Sabiri scored from an audaciously tight angle and fellow substitute Zakaria Aboukhlal added a second in stoppage time as Morocco pulled off a shock 2-0 win over Belgium in World Cup Group F on Sunday.

Sabiri’s free kick from near the corner flag caught out Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at the near post as it curled in for the 73rd-minute winner, securing only Morocco's third victory at the World Cup finals.

Morocco’s Abdelhamid Sabiri, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal with teammates Achraf Hakimi, left, and Sofyan Amrabat during the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and Morocco, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

Morocco’s Abdelhamid Sabiri, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal with teammates Achraf Hakimi, left, and Sofyan Amrabat during the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and Morocco, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

Aboukhlal's goal came on the counter-attack, set up by Hakim Ziyech as Belgium were caught pressing forward for the equaliser.

The North Africans also had the ball in the net with the last kick of the first half as Ziyech’s free kick eluded everyone in the penalty area and caught Courtois unsighted, but a VAR check found skipper Romain Saiss had been just offside.

Morocco moved on to four points from two games with Belgium, second in the world rankings, on three. Canada and Croatia were meeting later in Sunday’s other Group F match.

Zakaria Aboukhlal of Morocco celebrates with teammates after scoring their team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on November 27, 2022, in Doha, Qatar.

Zakaria Aboukhlal of Morocco celebrates with teammates after scoring their team’s second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium and Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on November 27, 2022, in Doha, Qatar. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois, Timothy Castagne, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Amadou Onana, Thorgan Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard (captain), Michy Batshuayi

Belgium team players pose before the start of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022.

Belgium team players pose before the start of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

Morocco: Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Noussair Mazraoui, Sofyan Amrabat, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss (captain), Hakim Ziyech, Azzedine Ounahi, Selim Amallah, Soufiane Boufal, Youssef En-Nesyri

Team Morocco poses prior to the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and Morocco, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

Team Morocco poses prior to the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and Morocco, at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

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