Moroccan Substitutes Spark Late Rally in Upset Win Over Belgium

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The upsets just keep coming at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Morocco defeated Belgium 2-0 on Sunday to pull ahead in the Group F standings. Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal scored in the match after entering as substitutes in the second half.

Morocco now leads Group F with four points after drawing Croatia in its opening match. It was just the third World Cup win for Morocco and the first for the nation since 1998.

Belgium, ranked No. 2 in the world, was favored to advance out of the group but hasn’t looked sharp in its first two matches. The Red Devils still control their own destiny though after defeating Canada 1-0 in their first match. A win over Croatia on Thursday would send the European nation to the knockout stage.

Sunday’s loss snapped Belgium’s streak of eight straight World Cup group stage victories dating back to 2002. It hadn’t lost a World Cup group stage match since 1994.

The first half of Morocco-Belgium was mostly quiet until just moments before the final whistle. Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech appeared to score on a free kick from just outside the box, but a VAR review wiped it away. Moroccan captain Romain Saïss was ruled offside on the play, as his run to the near post influenced the goalkeeper’s approach.

Despite a 0-0 halftime score, Belgium was statistically outplaying Morocco. It had the edge in shots, corner kicks and over double the possession time.

But that all changed when the squads returned to the pitch.

Morocco had a few missed opportunities early in the second half before finally breaking through in the 73rd minute on a free kick by Sabiri. From an awkward angle on the left side of the field, Sabiri curled it under Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for Morocco’s first goal in Qatar.

Even with Belgium on the attack, Morocco maintained the lead through the rest of the match.

The dagger came in stoppage time, when Aboukhlal blasted the ball into the net off a feed from Ziyech. That goal in the 92nd minute sealed the 2-0 win.

Group F play will conclude on Thursday, with both matches at 10 a.m. ET. Morocco will face Canada, while Belgium will battle Croatia.

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