After Saudi Arabia’s famous upset over Argentina, it was Morocco’s turn now as they beat Belgium 2-0. It wasn’t just that Morocco won, but that they won quite convincingly. The 2-0 upset left Kevin de Bruyne and the 2018 semifinalists in peril of a group-stage exit at what is likely the final World Cup for a highly-talented Belgian group that haven’t managed to convert their promise into prizes.
Not so long ago, Belgium were the top-most ranked team in the world, boasting of a star-studded line-up. But to say they haven’t lived up their expectations would be an understatement. And they are running out of time too. Their stars are ageing. Courtois, who was once a sure-handed stopper, is now looking increasingly vulnerable in front of goal. In fact, Morocco’s first goal came off a mistake from Courtois. Morocco substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri gave his team the lead by whipping in the free kick from a tight angle on the left in the 73rd minute that got under the body of Courtois
Belgium could have become the second team behind defending champion France to advance to the last 16 if it beat Morocco. But it dropped from first to third in Group F and now plays against 2018 World Cup finalist Croatia trying to avoid its earliest elimination since 1998. De Bruyne looked far from his best and captain Eden Hazard was taken off just after an hour as he too looked half a shade of the person whom clubs were waiting in line to snatch, just a couple of years back.
Zakaria Aboukhlal guided a shot into the roof of the net off a pass from Hakim Ziyech in stoppage time to make it 2-0 as Belgium’s defense, boasting more than 300 international appearances but anchored by two players in their mid-30s, was beaten by a speedy 22-year-old forward playing at his first World Cup.
Morocco moved to four points along with Croatia. Belgium is on three and Canada join hosts Qatar in the list of those who have been eliminated, after losing to Croatia earlier in the day. Morocco has only ever been past the group stage once at a World Cup, in 1986.