Belgium v Morocco
Belgium’s performance in the opening match was disappointing, against the very offensive Canadians. The positive, however, is that they won. At the same time, the Belgians also ensured the equaling of a world record, with the eighth consecutive win in the group stage of a World Cup. With Morocco, the Red Devils face a different type of opponent. This match will be widely watched in Belgium, where there is a large Moroccan community.
Morocco started off their World Cup campaign with a goalless draw against 2018 finalists Croatia, which should be recognized as a positive result for the Atlas Lions. As expected, they sat back and allowed the Europeans to have possession, while hoping to punish on the break. It ended up being a game of few chances and sets us up for a very intriguing second match-day in group F.
After watching Belgium in their bout against Canada, you’d think that Morocco fancy their chances against a side which clearly have weaknesses that could be exploited. The Red Devils are expected to see majority of possession, but if Morocco can mirror the intensity of Canada off the ball, players like Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal have everything it takes to create goalscoring chances.
Romelu Lukaku trained with the group for the first time on Thursday. The Red Devils’ top marksman was out for several weeks with a thigh muscle injury and is gradually getting ready to play. He may get his first minutes against Morocco. Starting the game is too ambitious for Lukaku. The coach’s preference as Lukaku’s replacement will continue to be Michy Batshuayi.
We expect a dominant Belgium with ball possession. Morocco will start rather defensively, but will still try to break out at times, because counting on a draw again is quite tricky. Belgium almost always score, and that has us confident of a win for the Red Devils. After the opening goal, the match will break open and it will also be interesting to bet live on more goals.
Belgium head into their match against Morocco off the back of an eighth consecutive win in the group stages of a World Cup. Their first game against Canada was a slog, and the Red Devils will be keen to put that match behind them and attack this game with the ferocity we know they possess.
The Moroccans could be without both their first-choice fallbacks after both Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui picked up injuries in their first game. This should open space up on the wings for Belgium to attack. The Atlas Lions will approach this game in a similar way to their last one against Croatia – sit deep and play for the draw. But against the quality of Belgium’s players, this tactic may not be as fruitful. Also, the Moroccans are likely to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation which the Belgians have plenty of experience playing against. All in all, I don’t expect Belgium to have many troubles here.
Facing goal and having plenty of possession of the ball, Kevin De Bruyne will play his best game, in a role he is also used to at Manchester City. He was totally unfairly made MOTM against Canada, he explained himself. He played a frustrating match and made wrong choices on the counter. In the practice match against Egypt, he also made a mistake on the first goal. Therefore, he will now be keen to be decisive. He will be the main distributor and will be the go-to player near the box.
This bet was a winner in the opening match and we think the chances are even higher for it to go through in this one. When Morocco attacks, everything will go through Ziyech on the right side. Hakimi will often come on the overlap which gives him space to cut inside and test his lethal left-foot.
He averaged 3 shots per game four years ago and started off the first half against Croatia with two shots from distance which were both blocked. This is classic Ziyech, who will try his luck whenever he gets half a yard of space. We believe Morocco can create more than they in the opener, against a vulnerable Belgian defense and Ziyech will obviously be key.
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