In another day of upsets, the mighty Belgium could not handle the likes of Abdelhamid Sabiri, Zakaria Aboukhlal, Achraf Hakimi or Hakim Ziyech, which has opened up Group F in ways not foreseen prior to the World Cups beginning matches. The 2-0 victory by the Atlas Lions of Morocco left despondent Red Devils superstar Kevin De Bruyne after his comments before the game that Belgium had no chance to win the World Cup - they were simply too old.
For a team and nation of which takes great pride in this Golden Generation of footballers, ranging from De Bruyne, to Romelu Lukaku, the Hazard Brothers, Dries Mertens, Axel Witsel, Thibaut Courtois and so many others, the pronouncement by perhaps the best of that lot that the team is too old now cannot be called anything else other than devastating. Amadou Onana of Belgium and Everton, on the other hand, is only at the start of his career, but depending upon how the rest of Group F plays out, he may have to wait until 2026 for another shot on the world’s greatest stage.
Just like in their group opener when Canada outcreated them, Belgium were on the back foot for long periods in this game but were lucky that the offside flag saved them just before the break with a marginal offside obstruction. However, there was no mistaking the two goals that did count, with first Sabiri’s freekick (with a minor deflection off Saiss) then Aboukhlal’s precise finish beating Courtois.
His yellow card in the 28’ meant that Onana will not be playing in the final group stage match against Croatia, and that the team will have to find some invention and ambition without him in the lineup or off the bench. They have the ability of course, but can they find the cohesion under boss Roberto Martinez to fight and claw back into the higher echelons of this tournament? It remains to be seen, and yet, there are few chances left for the world to see it if the Red Devils do not get it together.
While Frank Lampard will have likely wanted the Everton midfielder to gain more experience over a long run in this tournament, there is likely a part of him that is glad the player may not get the chance to hurt himself for a cause that appears to be lost. The player still has lots to develop, even with his unbelievable athletic abilities, but seems to grow wiser on the pitch each time he steps upon it - yellow cards notwithstanding.
Croatia’s victory against Canada today sees them at the top of the table alongside Morocco, with Canada eliminated, and Belgium would have to defeat Croatia in the final match of the group to ensure that they leapfrog them. Morocco, on the other hand - a truly astounding story - will be able to punch their ticket to the next round simply by securing a draw or victory against the Maple Leafs in the group finale.