Group out threatens

    Belgium is only a shadow of past tournaments at the World Cup in Qatar. The World Cup third in 2018 deservedly lost 0: 2 (0: 0) against Morocco on Sunday and thus missed the early entry into the round of 16. Unlike their flattering opening win over Canada, the Belgians were punished this time for a sluggish and uninspired performance. After the free kick by former Paderborn player Abdelhamid Sabiri in the 73rd minute and a late goal by Zakaria Aboukhlal (90+2), they now even have to worry about progressing.

    In any case, the very committed and tactically much more disciplined Moroccans have already overtaken them in Group F. They now have it in their own hands to reach a World Cup round of 16 for the first time in 36 years. As always when a European team meets North Africans like Tunisia or Morocco in Qatar, it felt like the Belgians had what felt like an away game at the Al Thumama Stadium in south-east Doha. More than two thirds of the 43,738 spectators supported the Moroccans at a sometimes deafening volume.
    Bayern defender Noussair Mazraoui was fit again in time for the underdogs after his hip injury in the first game (0-0 against Croatia), but the Moroccans had to do without their strong goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. The number one of FC Sevilla was initially still on the line-up sheet and even sang the national anthem on the pitch, but then dropped out at short notice.


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    Before the game, Morocco’s coach Walid Regragui had demanded that all African teams had to play in a much more European and therefore more results-oriented manner in order to be successful at a World Cup. And his team followed this strategy against the Belgians as well. Only in the first 20 minutes did it look as if they were giving the still prominent but noticeably aging offensive stars like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne a little too much space. But after that, the Moroccans became more and more courageous, without giving up their defensive order.

    Former Dortmund player Achraf Hakimi fired a first warning shot in the 35th minute. And after a free kick by the second big star Hakim Ziyech, the ball even landed in the goal in injury time in the first half (45+2). But after the video evidence was used, the goal did not count because defender Romain Saiss was offside when he headed the ball. The Belgians lacked the pace to create a comparable threat. Former HSV professional Amadou Onana disappointed as a replacement in central midfield, as did Dortmund’s Thomas Meunier on the right flank. And Eden Hazard could hardly get past Hakimi or Mazraoui to dribble. In the 52nd minute, the Real Madrid striker forced Morocco’s reserve goalkeeper Monir El Kajoui to make a save. Less than ten minutes later, coach Roberto Martínez got him off the field. It is indicative of the Belgian team’s situation that 31-year-old Hazard has been replaced by 35-year-old Dries Mertens. Martínez doesn’t seem to trust the new generation in his squad yet.

    World Cup 2022: The most valuable players per nation

    Akram Afif | Qatar | Al Sadd SC | Market value: €4 million

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    Squad value: €14.9m

    Keylor Navas | Costa Rica | PSG | Market value: €5 million

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    Squad value: €18.75m

    Sultan Al-Ghannam | Saudi Arabia | Al-Nassr FC | Market value: €2.5 million

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    Squad value: €25.2m

    Matthew Ryan | Australia | FC Copenhagen | Market value: €5 million

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    Squad value: €37.3m

    Mehdi Taremi | Iran | FC Porto | Market value: €20 million

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    Squad value: €59.53m

    Ellyes Skhiri | Tunisia | 1. FC Cologne | Market value: €13 million

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    Squad value: €62.4m

    Moises Caicedo | Ecuador | Brighton | Market value: €13 million

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    Squad value: €146.5m

    Daichi Kamada | Japan | Eintracht Frankfurt | Market value: €30 million

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    Squad value: €154m

    Frank Anguissa | Cameroon | SSC Napoli | Market value: €38 million

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    Squad value: €155m

    Ben Davis | Wales | Tottenham | Market value: €20 million*

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    Squad value: €160.15m
    *plus Brennan Johnson (Nottingham; MV €20m)

    Heung Min Son | South Korea | Tottenham | Market value: €70 million

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    Squad value: €164.48m

    Edson Alvarez | Mexico | ajax | Market value: €35 million

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    Squad value: €176.1m

    Alphonso Davies | Canada | Bayern Munich | Market value: €70 million

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    Squad value: €187.3m

    Thomas Partey | Ghana | Arsenal | Market value: €38 million

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    Squad value: €216.9m

    Kalidou Koulibaly | Senegal | Chelsea | Market value: €35 million

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    Squad value: €229.5m

    Achraf Hakimi | Morocco | PSG | Market value: €65 million

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    Squad value: €241.1m

    Robert Lewandowski | Poland | FC Barcelona | Market value: €45 million

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    Squad value: €255.6m

    Christian Pulisic | United States | Chelsea | Market value: €38 million

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    Squad value: €277.4m

    Manuel Akanji | Switzerland | Manchester City | Market value: €30 million

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    Squad value: €281m

    Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg | Denmark | Tottenham | Market value: €45 million

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    Squad value: €353m

    Dušan Vlahovic | Serbia | Juventus | Market value: €80 million

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    Squad value: €359.5m

    Josko Gvardiol | Croatia | RB Leipzig | Market value: €60 million

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    Squad value: €377 million

    Federico Valverde | Uruguay | Madrid | Market value: €100 million

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    Squad value: €449.7m

    Kevin De Bruyne | Belgium | Manchester City | Market value: €80 million

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    Squad value: €563.2m

    Matthijs de Ligt | Netherlands | Bayern Munich | Market value: €70 million

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    Squad value: €587.25m

    Lautaro Martinez | Argentina | Inter | Market value: €75 million

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    Squad value: €645.2m

    Peter | Spain | FC Barcelona | Market value: €100 million

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    Squad value: €877m

    Yamal Musiala | Germany | Bayern Munich | Market value: €100 million

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    Squad value: €885.5m

    Rafael Leao | Portugal | Milan | Market value: €85 million

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    Squad value: €937m

    Kylian Mbappe | France | PSG | Market value: €160 million

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    Squad value: €997.5m

    Vinicius Jr. | Brazil | Madrid | Market value: €120 million

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    Squad value: €1.14bn

    Phil Foden | UK | Manchester City | Market value: €110 million

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    Squad value: €1.26bn

    Above all, this change had no effect on the game. Morocco remained the much more passionate and even better team in the second half. Even after their long-injured star striker Romelu Lukaku (81st) came on, the Belgians couldn’t think of anything else.

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