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World Cup 2022: Morocco stun Belgium in second Arab win

The Atlas Lions inch closer to qualification after an impressive display against the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists
Morocco's players celebrate their team's goal against Belgium at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on 27 November 2022 (Reuters)

Morocco pulled off the second major Arab win at the 2022 Qatar World Cup on Sunday, beating last tournament's semi-finalists Belgium in Group F and inching closer to qualifying for the knockout stages.

The Atlas Lions, ranked 22nd in the global rankings, beat the world's second-best team 2-0 in a pulsating match at Doha's Al-Thumama Stadium.

Midfielder Abdelhamid Sabiri opened the score sheet in the 73rd minute from a free kick near the corner flag that caught out Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at the near post.

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As Belgium put pressure in the final minutes to chase a result, substitute Zakaria Aboukhlal added a second in stoppage time, set up by Hakim Ziyech. 

Supported by thousands of fans, the North African team put on an impressive display throughout the match and scored another goal in the final moments of the first half that was later disallowed as an offside by VAR check.

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The win took Morocco to the top of their group with four points. They now need at least a draw from the final match against Canada on Thursday to advance to the next round.

Morocco has only won two games in five of its previous World Cup tours, against Scotland in 1998 and Portugal in 1986, the year it qualified for the knockout stages for the first and only time.

The Sunday result is the third major win for Middle East and North African nations at this year's World Cup, after Saudi Arabia's historic win over Argentina and Iran's vital victory over Wales.

Qatar is the only Middle Eastern team to be knocked out of the tournament so far after losing their two opening matches.

Iran, with three points so far, will play a winner-takes-all match against the US on Tuesday where avoiding defeat could see them through while a win will ensure they advance.

Saudi Arabia will be in a similar position when they play Mexico on Wednesday.

Tunisia - playing on the same day but with just one point after two matches - faces the toughest challenge to advance as they need a win over champions France.

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