Morocco on the verge as the North African wipe away Belgium’s fading Golden Generation #1625
Morocco 2 Belgium 0FT
We have been talking about Belgium’s golden generation for far too long. Belgium had an incredible collection of young players mixed with experience. The most talented side Belgium have ever had. From 2014 onwards the team was talented enough and deep enough to win the World Cup or the European championships. Belgium still remains empty-handed. Although they had all the pieces necessary to reach their ambitions, we are at the end. We have been talking about this golden generation for what has felt like eons. The window to follow through on their expectations and ambitions of this Belgium side may have expired. They are on their last legs if anything else. Roberto Martinez has come up short with this team repeatedly. They’ve gone on some deep runs here and there but ultimately have never been able to come through. Quarter finals in the 2014 World Cup, quarterfinals in the 2016 European championships, semi-final in the 2018 World Cup and quarterfinals at the 2020 Euros. They have continually fell short and have been in a very difficult group at this tournament in Qatar. They were drawn with Morocco, Croatia, and newcomers Canada. In the opening match day of the World Cup, they managed to squeak by Canada with a 1–0 victory. Setting up a very important following matchup against Morocco. Morocco has been to six World cups but hasn’t got out of the group since 1986. The North African side looks to try to do that very thing. After a tough goalless draw against Croatia, there will be a big opportunity for them to pull the upset against Belgium. However, Belgium are not the team they once were and many believed Morocco could potentially be a difficult test for them looking at a potential dark horse candidate at this tournament. Yesterday afternoon in Qatar we would see a true battle between two teams looking to battle it out and get into the knockout stage.
The match got underway as the events began to unfold. Belgium had large majority of the possession. Much like they did against Canada. However, Canada were inexperienced and lacked the touch in front of goal. Morocco isn’t at their first World Cup. They weren’t going to be phased by the occasion and recently ended up getting a draw with a really good Croatia team. Not having A lot of possession could go in their favor. Morocco’s game plan was to hit them on the counter attack. This Belgium isn’t nearly as good as it was at the beginning of this golden generation. They are exposable and can be broken down. In the opening minutes though Belgium got themselves in the box. In the fourth minute Thoran Hazard found some space on the left wing before delivering a well-timed pass to Michy he gets a good look on goal fires it on target, but the goalkeeper manages to make a fantastic save preventing a hot start from Belgium. This game was flowing but didn’t have a large barrage of chances in the first half. Both sides ended up creating opportunities for themselves but it wasn’t an onslaught of attack. It was possession based football. Essentially a chess match. Belgium with all the possession against Morocco waiting for a mistake so they can hit on the break. In the 16th minute Morocco tried to capitalize coming off of corner. It was delivered in by Hakim Ziyech. Onana gets his head on the end of it but can’t quite steer it home. Morocco we’re picking up a bit of momentum. Just 4 minutes later they had another chance at it. The 20th minute Hakim Ziyech stung from deep well hit as it came dangerously close to hitting the back of the net but ended up just a little over the mark. You would have thought considering the talent that Belgium have and the amount of possession they would have done better with their chances and would have created more. However, it wasn’t exactly coming fast and furious. Eden hazard in the 32nd minute dumped it off to KDB before the Man City star found Thomas monier from inside the box he attempts to cross it to the strikers but didn’t have enough on it as the goalkeeper catches it on the way in. 2 minutes later and the 34th minute here comes Morocco. Hakim Ziyech collects it from onana traveling into the box. Looking to beat courtois but misfired in the end. In stoppage time in the 45th minute it looks like Morocco had taken the lead. Hakim Ziyech hits a beautiful free kick from the corner of the box into the back of the net. However, the official made a strange decision. Morocco had everyone rushing forward. Nobody was offsides no one was fouled. However, the ruling was that someone was blocking the vision of courtois therefore it didn’t stand. It was ultimately the wrong decision. There was nothing wrong with the free kick. Therefore, the goal should have stood. However, the ruling was that it was not a goal. Something that surely would have fired up Morocco as they felt they had a gold stolen from them. This would end the first half with a goalless draw thus far with important 45 minutes to go.
Belgium control and possession is looking meaningless. They don’t look like a real threat in this competition as they are supposed to be. The criticism surrounding the golden generation fading is being unraveled in front of her eyes. Morocco had very little possession in the first half yet had the best chances of the game thus far and even scored with a goal being incorrectly disallowed. All the momentum was with the North Africans. They put together a very impressive first half display and went straight at Belgium as the second half started. In the 49th minute. Hakim Ziyech on the counter attack looks to strike from deep. He’s ultimately denied by courtois, but he is continued to apply the pressure on Belgium. Eden hazard replied with a little something, just a few minutes later. Got on the break for Belgium. Showed his individual quality taking the ball into a dangerous area before trying to beat the keeper from close range for the Moroccan keeper. Turned out was a match for him as he makes important safe to keep things level. A few minutes later in the 56 minute Morocco came within a very close distance of putting themselves in front. A beautiful cross from Hakim Ziyech into Sofiane Boufal on the opposite side as he collects it manages to beat the defender cutting into the box. Firing the strike at an angle but in close range but couldn’t quite get there in the end. It was a battle throughout Belgium with the more talented team the more experienced team, but we’re finding it difficult against a gritty Morocco side that just needed a moment to flip the game on its head We were close to reaching its conclusion. In the 71st minute Morocco battled it head-on. After a cross coming from midfield Belgium commit a foul on Morocco. Saiss steps over a deep free kick outside the box at the corner. He goes for goal hooking it into the box in a deadly free kick. It landed perfectly. Very well hit and Abdelhamid Sabiri supplies a late touch to stick it into the back of the net. This time they couldn’t take the goal away as Morocco take a 1-0 lead. With about 20 minutes to go, Morocco was on the verge of a famous victory. 10 minutes later Merton’s tries to find the equalizer through the air but the header can’t quite get there. Belgium are trying to push and search for that equalizer but it never arrived. In the 94th minute, Morocco killed off the game on a break. Hakim Ziyech cuts into the box before slipping it to Zakaria Aboukhlal. He follows through sending a rocket into the top corner at the near post as Morocco take a 2-0 lead. Belgium were done for and there was no way back now. Morocco joins Croatia at the top of the group with one result away from the round of 16 would be there first time they’ve gotten out of the group since 1986. As the golden generation is clearly fading as Morocco deservingly come away with a 2-0 victory with qualification all in their control.
It appears that the Belgium golden generation has missed their opportunity. Even though they weren’t in a World Cup semi-final four years ago, they’ve reached the last straw. They’re not nearly as good and while they’ve been getting weaker, everyone else seems to be getting stronger. Big names and up and coming nations as well. Belgium did not look particularly well against Canada. Even though they managed to win the game, it wasn’t the dominating type of display that we would expect from a Belgium team. Now they’re facing their biggest threat yet. Belgium may struggle to make it out of the group and perhaps they’ll only have one more match before they’re sent home. It is absolutely disaster for Belgium now having to take on Croatia in the last game of the group. This will not be a good matchup for Belgium and they should be fearful of their stay in Qatar. It very well could be coming to an end. While Luka modric is still a musician very late in his career, Croatia have countless amounts of experience and young talent in the ranks. While they’re not as good as they were in 2018 when they made the World Cup final, they still are a very formable side that could give Belgium a bit of trouble. Belgium dominated the possession of this game and couldn’t find a way to break through. Not only that, despite the chance of the Belgium created, Morocco was the team that created the most encouraging chances even before the score their goals. Morocco only had 33% possession throughout the 90 minutes and handle themselves remarkably well against Belgium. They were a few early chances at the beginning of the first half and the beginning of the second half for Belgium, but Morocco manage to deal with it. They defended it well. They got in the right spots and were very effective. Morocco on the verge of making history. A victory against Canada who currently have 0 points would take them into the round of 16 for the first time since the 1986 World Cup. African countries historically have struggled at this tournament. Of course you can reference Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. But for the most part, teams in africa have really struggled to grow in the same way as the European countries and Asian countries. Morocco could do something incredibly special. This is a young team on the rise with a lot of quality inside of it. We see that with their victory against Belgian. Even though Morocco had the quality and the team to beat Belgium, it is a historic victory for the country’s history at this tournament. They are now one match away from getting out of the group, which by itself would be a tremendous honor. But beyond that, Morocco is the type of team that will be a difficult matchup for whoever they run into next. Morocco scores at the end of the first half incorrectly. Disallowed goal and then scored twice in the final 20 minutes. They may not have had a chunk of the ball, but they made their chances count. The North Africans have proven here but they belong and they have what it takes to qualify for the round of 16. On top of that for Belgium standpoint, as I mentioned, it is a nightmare. Not only that, against Croatia and they will have to pack their bags early. Croatia and Morocco have already played each other a tough and to end goalless draw points for either Morocco or Croatia could see them through to the round of 16. The Golden generation of Belgium missed an unbelievable opportunity for themselves. They ran out of gas and were probably guided by the wrong manager. If they fail to get out of the group, it will come down to this moment and this performance against Morocco. Belgium is one step closer to elimination while Morocco’s late dramatics take them one step closer to the knockouts.