Nayef Aguerd’s superb start to the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals continued as Morocco defeated Belgium 2-0 Group F win over Belgium.
Earning his 24th cap, the West Ham United centre-back was at his calm, composed and imperious best at the Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar on Sunday afternoon.
The Atlas Lions made it back-to-back clean sheets after holding 2018 runners-up Croatia to a goalless draw in their opening tie, with the goals coming inside the final 17 minutes from Sampdoria midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri and Toulouse forward Zakaria Aboukhlal.
Sabiri curled in a direct free-kick that caught out Thibaut Courtois at the near post on 73 minutes, with Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech having seen a similar effort ruled out for offside against Romain Saïss, before substitute Aboukhlal curled Ziyech’s cut-back into the top corner in the second half of added-time to complete a famous win.
Morocco’s first World Cup victory since defeating Scotland in 1998 and just third in 18 attempts across six appearances at the finals put them top of Group F with four points, ahead of Belgium on three. Croatia defeated Canada 4-1 later in the day to leapfrog the Atlas Lions.
Even so, Aguerd and company can now reach the round of 16 for just the second time in their history and the first time since 1986, when the topped a group that also included England before losing 1-0 to West Germany.
Walid Regragui’s side take on Canada in their final Group F tie at the Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday 1 December at 6pm GMT, with the winners potentially meeting Germany or Spain the round of 16.
Speaking of Germany, Thilo Kehrer started the 1-1 Group E draw on Sunday evening.
Alvaro Morata put Spain in front at Al Bayt Stadium before right-back Kehrer was substituted. One of Hani Flick's replacements, Werder Bremen forward Niclas Füllkrug, leveled late on to keep Germany in with a chance of progressing.
Kehrer and company need to defeat Costa Rica on Thursday evening and hope Japan lose to or draw with Spain if they are to avoid a second straight group-stage exit.