Morocco caused the latest shock at a World Cup that has been full of surprises by beating Belgium thanks to late goals by Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal.

Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was at fault for the first goal, inexplicably allowing Sabiri’s inswinging free-kick to beat him at his near post with 17 minutes to go.

But the whole Belgium side paid the price for a ponderous performance, with Morocco capping a magnificent second-half display when Aboukhlal fired Hakim Ziyech’s cutback into the roof of the net in stoppage time.

That sparked wild celebrations in the stands of Al Thumama Stadium from thousands of Morocco fans, who had created a raucous atmosphere from the start.

The result means Morocco move above Belgium on four points, with Croatia now topping Group F on goal difference after their 4-1 win dashed Canada’s hopes of progressing.

Few surprises had seemed on the cards early on. After surviving a high-tempo and helter-skelter approach from Canada – their first opponents in Group F – Belgium’s initial job this time was to break down Morocco’s massed defence.

They managed it within the first five minutes, when Thorgan Hazard sent Michy Batshuayi running clear, but he was denied by Munir Mohamedi, a late replacement in the Morocco goal after Bono was taken ill in the warm-up.

It seemed that would just be the start of some sustained Belgium pressure, but while they continued to dominate possession, further clear-cut chances were few and far between.

Roared on by their noisy fans, who were bouncing all around Al Thumama Stadium in great numbers, Morocco comfortably kept them at bay and began to grow into the game themselves.

They thought they had taken the lead just before half-time when Ziyech’s free-kick eluded Courtois, but the video assistant referee (VAR) showed Romain Saiss was offside and deemed to be interfering with play after running across the Belgium goalkeeper’s line of sight.

Roberto Martinez’s side did not improve after the break, only managing shots from distance from the ineffective Eden Hazard and substitute Dries Mertens.

Morocco, meanwhile, were becoming as lively as their supporters in the stands and went close to taking the lead when Sofiane Boufal cut in from the left and sent a shot bouncing wide.

They kept coming forward and got their reward when Sabiri’s clever free-kick found Courtois dozing at a set-piece again. This time, there was to be no VAR reprieve to save him.

The closest Belgium came to an equaliser was when Jan Vertonghen headed wide, before Aboukhlal made sure of a stunning victory by finishing off a swift break.

Belgium made to look second best

Belgium’s stuttering win over Canada in their opening game means their route to the last 16 is still open, albeit less straightforward than was anticipated.

But this was another reminder that the generation of players that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago are nearing the end of the road.

They were disjointed going forward, with Batshuayi ineffective in attack and Romelu Lukaku only fit enough for a cameo appearance in the closing moments.

Even Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne was unable to add any inspiration in midfield and, at the back, veteran pair Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were left petrified by the pace of Morocco’s attack when their side were chasing the game.

They looked nothing like a side supposedly ranked number two in the world and were made to look second best by Morocco, who sit 20 places lower.

Player of the match

ZiyechHakim Ziyech

with an average of 8.45


  1. Squad number17Player nameTrossard

    Average rating


  2. Squad number7Player nameDe Bruyne

    Average rating


  3. Squad number18Player nameOnana

    Average rating


  4. Squad number21Player nameCastagne

    Average rating


  5. Squad number10Player nameE Hazard

    Average rating


  6. Squad number16Player nameT Hazard

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  7. Squad number5Player nameVertonghen

    Average rating


  8. Squad number2Player nameAlderweireld

    Average rating


  9. Squad number15Player nameMeunier

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  10. Squad number6Player nameWitsel

    Average rating


  11. Squad number1Player nameCourtois

    Average rating


  12. Squad number8Player nameTielemans

    Average rating


  13. Squad number14Player nameMertens

    Average rating


  14. Squad number23Player nameBatshuayi

    Average rating


  15. Squad number22Player nameDe Ketelaere

    Average rating


  16. Squad number9Player nameLukaku

    Average rating



  1. Squad number7Player nameZiyech

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  2. Squad number5Player nameAguerd

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  3. Squad number17Player nameBoufal

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  4. Squad number11Player nameSabiri

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  5. Squad number14Player nameAboukhlal

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  6. Squad number6Player nameSaïss

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  7. Squad number2Player nameHakimi

    Average rating


  8. Squad number12Player nameMohamedi

    Average rating


  9. Squad number19Player nameEn-Nesyri

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  10. Squad number3Player nameMazraoui

    Average rating


  11. Squad number4Player nameS Amrabat

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  12. Squad number9Player nameHamdallah

    Average rating


  13. Squad number18Player nameEl Yamiq

    Average rating


  14. Squad number15Player nameAmallah

    Average rating


  15. Squad number25Player nameAttiat-Allah

    Average rating


  16. Squad number8Player nameOunahi

    Average rating




Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Courtois
  • 15MeunierSubstituted forLukakuat 81′minutes
  • 2Alderweireld
  • 5Vertonghen
  • 21Castagne
  • 18OnanaBooked at 28minsSubstituted forTielemansat 60′minutes
  • 6Witsel
  • 7De Bruyne
  • 10E HazardSubstituted forMertensat 60′minutes
  • 16T HazardSubstituted forTrossardat 75′minutes
  • 23BatshuayiSubstituted forDe Ketelaereat 75′minutes


  • 3Theate
  • 4Faes
  • 8Tielemans
  • 9Lukaku
  • 11Carrasco
  • 12Mignolet
  • 13Casteels
  • 14Mertens
  • 17Trossard
  • 19Dendoncker
  • 20Vanaken
  • 22De Ketelaere
  • 24Openda
  • 25Doku
  • 26Debast


Formation 4-3-3

  • 12Mohamedi
  • 2HakimiSubstituted forSabiriat 68′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 5Aguerd
  • 6Saïss
  • 3Mazraoui
  • 8OunahiSubstituted forEl Yamiqat 78′minutes
  • 4S Amrabat
  • 15AmallahSubstituted forAttiat-Allahat 67′minutes
  • 7Ziyech
  • 19En-NesyriSubstituted forHamdallahat 73′minutes
  • 17BoufalSubstituted forAboukhlalat 73′minutes


  • 9Hamdallah
  • 10Zaroury
  • 11Sabiri
  • 13Chair
  • 14Aboukhlal
  • 16Ezzalzouli
  • 18El Yamiq
  • 20Dari
  • 21Cheddira
  • 22Tagnaouti
  • 23El Khannouss
  • 24Benoun
  • 25Attiat-Allah
  • 26Jabrane

César Arturo Ramos Palazuelos


Match Stats

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Belgium 0, Morocco 2.

  2. Second Half ends, Belgium 0, Morocco 2.

  3. Abdelhamid Sabiri (Morocco) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  4. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Foul by Abdelhamid Sabiri (Morocco).

  6. Offside, Morocco. Hakim Ziyech tries a through ball, but Sofyan Amrabat is caught offside.

  7. Goal! Belgium 0, Morocco 2. Zakaria Aboukhlal (Morocco) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Hakim Ziyech.

  8. Corner, Morocco. Conceded by Thibaut Courtois.

  9. Attempt saved. Abderrazak Hamdallah (Morocco) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Abdelhamid Sabiri.

  10. Charles De Ketelaere (Belgium) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  11. Foul by Abdelhamid Sabiri (Morocco).

  12. Foul by Axel Witsel (Belgium).

  13. Hakim Ziyech (Morocco) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  14. Attempt missed. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Dries Mertens with a cross following a corner.

  15. Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Yahya Attiat-Allah.

  16. Substitution, Belgium. Romelu Lukaku replaces Thomas Meunier.

  17. Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  18. Foul by Hakim Ziyech (Morocco).

  19. Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  20. Foul by Abderrazak Hamdallah (Morocco).

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