Sports, Football

Belgium seek cutting edge against well-marshalled Morocco

By Reuters
Published : 25 Nov 2022 08:41 PM

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez will be looking for a vastly improved performance from his side when they take on a resolute Morocco in their second World Cup Group F fixture at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday, where victory will seal a round of 16 place.

Martinez described their 1-0 win over Canada on Wednesday as the "worst technical performance" of his six-year spell in charge but said his team will improve as the tournament goes on.

"We have to grow with these games," he told reporters. "This tournament is going to make you develop and grow as it goes on. If you do that by winning games, it's an incredible advantage.

"We didn't win (against Canada) with our normal talent and quality on the ball, but you don't win in the World Cup if you don't do the other side of the game (defend well)."

Martinez was coy on whether Romelu Lukaku, whose absence was keenly felt against Canada, could feature. The menacing striker has returned to full training having played just two club games since August due to thigh and hamstring issues.

"Romelu has trained with the rest of the group," Martinez says. "Now we’ll see how his body reacts afterwards. I don’t think he’ll be ready to start the match against Morocco, but we’ll find out in the next two days."

Getting Lukaku back ahead of the knockout rounds, should Belgium advance that far, will be a priority but there will be caution against rushing him back into service too soon.

Morocco also have a concern over one of their key names after Noussair Mazraoui was stretchered off in the 0-0 draw with Croatia. It is not clear whether the right-sided player will recover from the hip injury in time.

It was a workmanlike performance against the Croats but one that new coach Walid Regragui feels gives them a platform to build on against Belgium.

"I've only been here for two months and I'm proud of the players. We wanted to achieve another result, but in the end we were satisfied with the draw," he said.

"We will wait for the outcome of the Belgium match, and then we will look to qualify for the last 16 against Canada."

Morocco beat Belgium 4-1 the last time the teams met in 2008, a game in which centre-back Jan Vertonghen and midfielder Axel Witsel both played for the European side.