Morocco beat Belgium 2-0 in Group F of Qatar FIFA World Cup

* 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

By Chris Bevan, BBC Sport at Al Thumama Stadium, Doha

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


Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois was at fault for the first goal, inexplicably allowing Sabiri’s in-swinging 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 to the top of Group F on four points, with Croatia and Canada meeting later on Sunday.

Writing on his Facebook page, former African Player of the Year and Zambia’s legend, Kalusha Bwalya said: “As Africans we have been waiting and waiting.Most of the time, history has been unkind to African teams.

“It was a bold decision for Moroccan Football Association to change the coach, Walid. The new coach has come in and the team looks completely different. They looked happy, everybody was running, the tactical change was brilliant, so we are really happy about this win.”

After a 0-0 draw against Croatia in the first match, Morocco next meet Canada on Thursday.


On Saturday, African representatives, Tunisia lost 0-1 against Australia but still have hope ahead of their Group D match on Wednesday against France having drawn 0-0 with Denmark in opening match.

Mitchell Duke was the hero as Australia claimed their first FIFA World Cup win in over 12 years with a hard-fought victory at Al Janoub Stadium.

The forward, who plays his club football for Fagiano Okayama in Japan’s second tier, provided the game’s decisive moment with a brilliant header midway through the first half.

Tunisia, who were roared on by another passionate and highly vocal support, toiled tirelessly in search of an equaliser but often lacked in composure and inspiration in the final third.

Australia defended heroically, too, no-one more so than Harry Souttar. The giant Scotland-born defender earned hugs and high fives from his team-mates late in the first half when he threw himself to block from Mohamed Drager with a goal seemingly inevitable.

Tunisia’s best chances thereafter came when Youssef Msakni fired wide from close range and, later, when Wahbi Khazri shot straight at Mat Ryan during some frantic closing stages.

After losing 0-2 against the Netherlands, Senegal survived a second-half fright to defeat hosts Qatar and open their Group A account at this intriguing World Cup.

Qatar were markedly improved on their opening-day showing against Ecuador but conceded goals to Boulaye Dia and Famara Diedhiou either side of half-time.

Mohammad Muntari powered home a 78th-minute header to raise the possibility of an unlikely comeback. But Bamba Dieng swept home to ease Senegal nerves and complete a vital victory.

Qatar appealed for a penalty on 34 minutes when Akram Afif crumpled to the turf with Ismaila Sarr for company but referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz didn’t see enough contact to point to the spot.

Dia seized on a slip from defender Boualem Khoukhi to fire Senegal in front four minutes before half-time.

And Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham was defeated for a second time three minutes after the restart when Ismail Jakobs’ corner was met at the near post by Diedhiou’s glancing header.

Qatar summoned a response, with Abdelkarim Hassan’s shot from distance travelling narrowly wide. Edouard Mendy saved from Almoez Ali but the Senegal keeper reserved his best for Ismaeel Mohammad’s 67th-minute close-range attempt, the Chelsea No1 springing to his right for an astounding reaction stop.

Mohammad supplied the fabulous delivery for substitute Muntari to head Qatar’s first World Cup goal. But it was another replacement in Dieng who had the final word when he converted from Iliman Ndiaye’s 84th-minute right-wing cut-back.

Ghana score twice to shock Portugal but still lost 2-3 Cristiano as Ronaldo etched his name into FIFA World Cup™ history by scoring a penalty but it took late goals from team-mates Joao Felix and Rafael Leao to eventually see off Ghana and ensure Portugal made a winning start to their campaign in Qatar.

Ronaldo, who had twice come close to scoring in the first half as well as having an effort ruled out for a foul, earned a penalty in the second half and rifled the spot-kick into the top corner of the net to break the deadlock and become the first male player to score in five World Cups.

Ghana nearly spoiled the moment by fighting their way back into the game when captain Andre Ayew knocked in a cut-back from Mohammed Kudus, who had come close to opening the scoring himself earlier on after a stunning solo run.

Portugal quickly took control of the game again, however, re-taking the lead when Felix produced an ice-cool finish after being played in by Bruno Fernandes.

Barely two minutes later substitute Leao appeared to make sure of the victory by tucking the ball into the far corner after another through ball from Fernandes.

Ghana did not give up though and Osman Bukari scored the fifth goal of the game to ensure a tense finish. Inaki Williams then almost found an equaliser in the 100th minute of the game, slipping and failing to get a shot away after dispossessing Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa.

Meanwhile, Cameroon lost their opening game as Switzerland came out on top in a game that had seemed in the balance until a second-half goal from Breel Embolo, who scored against his country of birth.

Breel Embolo reacted apologetically after he scored

However, in the early stages the African side looked most likely to make a breakthrough, Karl Toko Ekambi having an inch-perfect cross taken off his toes by the defender as he raced into the penalty area.

The Swiss too came close, Manuel Akanji heading wide from a corner, but it wasn’t until the second half that a goal threat really emerged.

Just minutes after the break, a wonderful team move saw Switzerland pass their way from left to right, shifting through the gears, before Xherdan Shaqiri’s excellent pull-back put it on a plate for Embolo.

Cameroon remained a threat on the counter and via set-pieces — Andre Anguissa met a Bryan Mbeumo free-kick sweetly but the header was straight down Yann Sommer’s throat — but it was Switzerland who appeared most likely to add a second goal to the game.

Andre Onana smartly prevented Ruben Vargas from doubling the scoreline midway through the second half and Haris Seferovic had a late attempt bravely blocked as the scoreline remained 1-0.


The following are the full fixtures for the African representatives for the rest of the group matches:

Monday, November 28

Group G: Cameroon vs Serbia, South Korea vs Ghana; Group H: Brazil vs Switzerland, Portugal vs Uruguay

Tuesday, November 29

Group A: Netherlands vs Qatar, Ecuador vs Senegal; Group B: Wales vs England, Iran vs USA

Wednesday, November 30

Group D: Australia vs Denmark, Tunisia vs France; Group C: Poland vs Argentina, Saudi Arabia vs Mexico

Thursday, December 1

Group F: Croatia vs Belgium, Canada vs Morocco; Group E: Costa Rica vs Germany, Japan vs Spain

Friday, December 2

Group G: South Korea vs Portugal, Ghana vs Uruguay; Group H: Serbia vs Switzerland, Cameroon vs Brazil.—Additional reporting by, Maravi Express