Morocco’s substitutions and subsequent defence would dramatically shift momentum in the second half, defeating Belgium 2-0 at Al Thumama Stadium.
Going into this matchup, Belgium were chasing nine straight group-stage wins, with a victory against Morocco guaranteeing a place in the knockout stages before facing Croatia.
To start the game, Belgium had more than the majority of the possession at 79 per cent in the first 11 minutes of the game.
Their strong attacking start would land them an opportunity in the 12th minute with a free-kick in a dangerous area just outside the box. The ball would curl into the center of the box but was unable to find a Belgian head.
Spreading the ball safely with close-range passing, Belgium looked in control and dictated the pace of the game.
Achraf Hakimi sparked a lot of Morocco’s possession and attack, using his speed to cover the turf and gain yardage.
In the 38th minute, Ziyech would whip in a free kick for the first goal of the game before VAR would reverse the call as Romain Saiss was offside.
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Although Belgium set the tone with possession in the first half, Morocco was impressive with the few opportunities they created.
Defensively, Morocco in the second half would make runs at the other end as a result of the higher lines Roberto Martinez was implementing.
In the 73rd minute, Morocco would have a free kick in the left edge of Belgium’s half by Abdelhamid Sabiri, who entered the game shortly before the free kick attempt.
Sabiri was able to curl the ball into the far post, skipping the hands of Thibaut Courtious to take the lead.
Belgium would push higher up the pitch, testing Morocco’s defence to attempt to tie the game up.
In stoppage time, Ziyech would make his way down the pitch and create an assist for Zakaria Aboukhlal who was lurking not too far from the near post. The forward would receive it from Ziyech and shoot right into the top corner of the net, sealing yet another surprising upset.
Belgium joins an ever-growing list of competition heavyweights to be upset by their less-fancied opponents, with teams like Argentina and Germany losing games they were heavily favoured to win, while the likes of England and Uruguay have dropped points in very winnable games.
The loss also now means that Group F has a drastically different look heading into the final matchday, with Belgium now needing to win against the dangerous Croatia to advance, or draw and hope Morocco lose against Canada by three goals or more.
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