Inside the Al Thumama Stadium, an overwhelming majority of fans donned the iconic red and green Moroccan colours, with their chants flooding the venue in what some could say resembled a home game for Morocco.
Belgium kicked off the game with a heavy defensive lineup, positioning four players in the back line to secure the area from the Moroccans at the Al Thumama Stadium.
Just 5 minutes into the game, Eden Hazard managed to find his way to the other side to slide the ball towards teammate Batshuayi, whose shot was blocked by Moroccan goalkeeper El Kajoui.
Belgium were presented an opportunity in the 12th minute, but De Bruyne’s free kick made no headway for the Belgians. Just moments later, he fired another shot at goal that was blocked and floated wide.
Despite this, Belgium dominated the first few minutes with 80% possession in the first fifteen minutes. Onana had a go in the box, but the ball went north.
A 21 minutes in, Ziyech took a strike for Morocco from 30 yards that was swiftly recovered in the Belgian box. The Moroccans kept up the pressure and a volley from Amallah sent the ball out. However, Hakimi soon after took a strike in what appeared to be the closest opportunity for the team.
With the half time whistle impending, Ziyech smashed a shot in for Morocco that sent the arena into hysteria. However, the joy was short lived, as a VAR check popped up on the screen at Al Thumama, ruling no goal due to an offside.
With second half kicking off, both teams returned onto the pitch with determination though the pace of play appeared to decline.
Ziyech pushes on
Despite his first-ever World Cup goal being taken away from him, Ziyech was boosted with confidence, striking a left-footer from 25 yards out. On the opposing end, Eden Hazard also made a break for Belgium, though both failed to nail a goal in.
The game heated up as the clock ran into the 60th minute, with Morocco looking like the more dominant side. Boufal took his chances as Morocco pressed on, but the shot went just wide of the post. The winger bounced back moments later, with more action for the North Africans in the Belgian half.
Morocco’s goalkeeper got his gloves wet as a Belgian ball finally came his way in the 65th and 66th minute. A clumsy Meunier foul gave Morocco a free kick that secured a magnificent first goal for the North Africans.
With little time left for Belgium to bag some points, Romelu Lukaku was substituted on with hopes for an immediate impact. However, the Moroccans were clearly the stronger team.
With 5 minutes of stoppage time added to the clock, Zakaria Aboukhlal found the back of the net to seal Morocco’s victory.