Morocco’s surprising win over Belgium was not the biggest upset of the World Cup. In fact, it might not even be the biggest upset of the day.

Yet, it figures to be one of the biggest upsets in Morocco history. It may also be one of the most influential ones as well.

Morocco’s two second-half goals may become the Atlas Lions’ main catalyst for a deep run into the later rounds of the World Cup.

Not only did they show its might in front of a frenzied Doha crowd and send a message to the rest of the world, but they showed their attack was not stagnant(unlike some other African nations). Their win showed the talent they have and the deep run they can make as a date with Canada looms.

Ziyech leads Morocco to victory

No one expected Morocco to give Belgium a hard time; much less beat them. However, that was what they did early in the first half. Despite the looming threat of Belgium’s infamous counter-attacks, Morocco still got chances early.

Achraf Hakimi blasted a shot narrowly over Thibaut Courtois and the cross bar, and Ziyech nearly scored a great free-kick before a VAR intervention. But there was still definite belief that Morocco could break through and score among some hopeful fans.

And finally, Morocco scored the game’s first goal. After Thomas Meunier fouled a Moroccan defender in the left flank, Abdelhamid Sarid belted a smooth free-kick into the bottom left corner, catching Courtois off his line and giving Morocco a big advantage.

Belgium’s chances to equalize grew as the clocked clicked to the 90th minute. Jan Vertonghen nearly scored with a strong header, but his attempt fell just left of the target. With time running out, Belgium decided to fling the midfield towards the box, which ended disastrously.

Munir took advantage of Belgium’s high lines and hit a big goal kick to Ziyech, who threw the defenders out of place.

The Chelsea winger slid the ball to Zakaria Aboukhlal, who placed his screamer of a shot just out of reach for Courtois to double Morocco’s lead. Morocco 2, Belgium 0.

Munir saves the day

Morocco would likely be down 3-0 if not for the Herculean efforts of Al-Wehda keeper Munir. He had a number of good saves to keep Belgium off the scoresheet, including monstrous saves against Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi.

His performance was marred by an unfortunate mix-up just seconds before the match started. Yassine Bounou, Sevilla star and usual starting keeper was spotted singing the national anthem and shaking hands with Belgium. Yet when the game started, it took BBC commentators 38 minutes to figure out Bono wasn’t in goal.

It took many by surprise, especially TV analysts who falsely given Bono credit for Munir’s incredible saves. Officials confirmed Bono had an eye problem just seconds before the match started and had to leave to the match.

If Bono cannot make it for Morocco’s group stage finale against Canada, Munir proved himself to be an above-average replacement. His crucial saves kept Morocco in the match, and his big goal kick gave Morocco its last goal to kill the game.

Morocco’s wing play leaves out En-Nesyri

For much of the match, Youssef En-Nesyri was on an island. No matter how many runs he made, how far he dropped back in the midfield, or even if he was open in the box; En-Nesyri could seem to get the ball.

He only had just 12 touches in 73 minutes, nearly a fifth of Ziyech’s total touches. Morocco’s winger-oriented offense left En-Nesyri without the ball. Although it worked, the Sevilla striker was not a big reason why it did.

It’s been a trend for En-Nesyri. He only had 21 touches in 81 minutes against Croatia, and just 13 touches in 67 minutes against Chile. He did score against Georgia, but it may have been because Ziyech was forced into a playmaking role in Morocco’s 3-4-3.

En-Nesyri got frustrated. Early in the second half, he tried linking up on runs with Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal, but didn’t get the ball a lot. He made wild gestures and big sighs when he could not make an impact on offense.

When Abderrazak Hamdallah replaced him in the 73rd minute, he looked less than please. Canada’s strong center-backs could frustrate him even more if Morocco looks towards the wings for inspiration.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Agencia MexSport

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final