Morocco beat Belgium 2-0 to top Group F

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Morocco beat Belgium 2-0 to top Group F

Morocco's defender 18 Jawad El Yamiq heads the ball past Belgium's forward 14 Dries Mertens during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. ODD ANDERSEN AFP DOHA Substitutes Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal earned Morocco their first World Cup victory in 24 years as they beat a hugely disappointing Belgium side 2 0 in World Cup Group F on Sunday.

The Morocco fans gave the match a vintage World Cup feel in a boiling atmosphere at the Al Thumama Stadium and Sabiri curled a wide free kick past Thibaut Courtois before Aboukhlal scored in stoppage time to put Morocco top of Group F with four points, one ahead of Belgium.

They left the 2018 tournament with a single point.

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We scored at the right moment. We deserve to win. After 70 minutes, some of our players were tired but the way the crowd got behind us, they really helped us. They gave us a big boost, said Hakim Ziyech, the man of the match.

Belgium, who had scraped a 1 -- 0 win over Canada in their opening game, looked a pale shadow of the team that finished third in 2018 and climbed to second in the world rankings. They must now fight for a last 16 spot against Croatia.

It is a game we need to understand, we need to be together and react. That happens at the World Cup, said Roberto Martinez, Belgium's head coach.

The Red Devils' poor display even forced Martinez to send Romelu Lukaku on for the last 10 minutes in a desperate attempt to salvage a point, even though the burly striker had been struggling with a hamstring problem.

Croatia, who have a point from their draw with Morocco, play Canada in the other Group F game later on Sunday.

READ MORE: Stuttering Croatia held by Morocco in goalless stalemate

In a lively start, Morocco looked happy to sit and wait, despite the deafening whistles of their fans, although bouts of intense pressing led to a number of dangerous counter-attacks with Ziyech the main threat.

Morocco looked safe as Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne struggled to find his range and Eden Hazard remained largely ineffective.

Courtois was beaten for the first time in the tournament when Ziyech fired a free kick into the pack and bounced past the keeper on the stroke of halftime.

Romain Saiss was marginally offside and referee Carlos Ramos ruled the goal out after a VAR review, as the Besiktas defender was obstructing Courtois' view.

Morocco started to fancy their chances and were more on the attack when Sofiane Boufal's shot went just wide after the break.

Belgium was out of sorts and Martinez sent Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens on to replace Eden Hazard and Amadou Onana.

Mertens had an immediate impact, forcing El Kajoui, who stood in minutes before kickoff for Yassine Bounou, into a superb save with a fierce shot.

Morocco substitute Sabiri broke the deadlock in the 73rd with an angled free kick similar to the one that led to the ruled-out goal in the first half, as Courtois could only fumble the ball into the net.

Saiss was also in the way, but onside this time, Morocco defended tooth and nail until they found another opening, with Aboukhlal clipping Ziyech's cross into the roof of the stadium as the stadium boiled over.