One of these sides was probably considered by most to have been the better on the pitch in their first game of the tournament, while the other was not. Ironically, Belgium, who were battered by Canada for much of the day, picked up the full three points while Morocco, who surely impressed fans who were less familiar with African sides, were forced to settle for a draw. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for what should be both an exciting and impactful matchday 2 clash in Group F.
Belgium Vs. Morocco Odds
Belgium are favored in this one; their moneyline is set at an even +100. Morocco are set at +310, while the draw is +240. The goalscoring line is the usual 2.5, with the under being a -135 favorite.
Belgium Vs. Morocco Prediction & Pick
A lot of pundits have stated that this is the “last chance” for Belgium’s golden generation. With stars like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois getting up there in age, it’s understandable why. The only issue is that Belgium’s last realistic chance already happened- it was in 2018, when they fell 1-0 in the semifinal to France. Now, as they showed in the Euro over a year ago, and in their opening match to Canada, it’s probably too late, as many of their aging veterans, particularly in defense, simply do not have the pace to keep up with the high-flying sides they’d need to beat to win trophies. Even De Bruyne, who is by no means out of his prime at this point, looked far from his usual, best self; even he was puzzled when he was awarded the Man of the Match award that so clearly belonged to Courtois. They were lucky to get the three points, thanks to a brilliant penalty save from Courtois, but the result has fooled nobody on the Belgian squad into thinking that they’re performing at the necessary level to achieve their lofty goals.
Morocco, on the other hand, look pretty good relative to expectations after the first matchday in undoubtedly the tournament’s toughest group. As the #22 side in FIFA’s rankings, and coming from the less-heralded African confederation, many casual viewers and even some serious fans and pundits didn’t think they’d contend with last World Cup’s runners-up; those people were wrong, as Morocco were perfectly competitive with Croatia, and even looked the better side at times. Hakim Ziyech wasn’t exactly prolific in his much-anticipated return to international play, but his presence should be a big boost for this side now that he’s had a chance to shake off any rust and/or “re-debut” jitters.
If you’re set on playing the three-way moneyline, Belgium at even money is a pretty good value in a game they really should probably win. That being said, it’s a pretty even contest, so if you want to back Morocco, betting a double-chance line is not a bad idea. As far as the goalscoring line, I like the under a lot; the Moroccan defense was very impressive in their opening draw against Croatia, and the attack is probably no more capable than Canada’s of breaking through the Belgian defense.
Belgium Attackers vs. Morocco Defenders
I’ll just say that it’s really fortunate for Belgium that Michy Batshuayi slotted home Toby Alderweireld’s fantastic long ball for the lone goal of the day, because Belgium didn’t look dangerous on a single other occasion throughout the match. Eden Hazard was a total ghost, as he has been in big matches for several years now, and it was no surprise to see him subbed off after about an hour of play. The only surprise was that the replacement was Leandro Trossard, rather than Jérémy Doku, who was extremely impressive at the Euro. De Bruyne was far from his normal, best-in-the-World self, perhaps due in part to playing on the wing rather than in the middle of things. Truly, the best progressive ball of the day was from a centre-back, Alderweireld, a true rarity when a player like De Bruyne is on the pitch. Obviously, there’s the glaring absence of Romelu Lukaku, who has been out with a thigh injury, but may be available for part of the Morocco match. This would be enormous if true, because Belgium are clearly starved for a true target man, and maybe to drop De Bruyne back to his natural CAM position.
It’s going to be a slightly surprisingly tough situation for Belgium’s attackers to get back into the swing of things, as Morocco’s defense was clearly the team’s star unit in their tournament-opening draw. PSG star Achraf Hakimi was unshockingly the absolute centerpiece of their relative triumph, as he provided excellent outside defense, dangerous pace in his forward play, and even a fairly competitive shot from distance. Noussair Mazraoui of Bayern Munich was excellent on the other side of the pitch as well, serving as the second half of what is quietly one of the better fullback duos at this tournament. In the middle, Naif Aguerd and Romain Saiss provided a steady foundation for the defense, as well as solid passing off of the back line. Sevilla Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou didn’t have a ton to do, due to his defenders’ solid play, but he picked up a save on a very dangerous shot and did a good job cleaning up passes into the box. This is a really strong defense, truly on par with those of some of the more favored European sides, and they’ll provide even more problems for Belgium than Canada’s back line did; the only question is if the Red Devils’ attackers will be in better form than their last time out.
Morocco Attackers vs. Belgium Defenders
Put simply, a clean sheet is an extremely misleading way to describe the performance of Belgium’s defensive players against Canada. The talented but inexperienced Maple Leafs side worked their way into position time after time, and Belgium’s defenders were extremely fortunate that all of those shooting opportunities were, one way or another, completely bungled. This group also conceded a penalty, for which of course they were bailed out by Courtois, and there unquestionably should have been one or even two more, after defenders were forced to make clumsy challenges to make up for their lack of speed. Yes, Alderweireld’s long ball was undoubtedly the play of the game, but from a defensive standpoint, he was a disaster, as were Jan Vertonghen and Leander Dendoncker. The former Tottenham star duo of Alderweireld and Vertonghen are now aged 33 and 35; they are clearly past their excellent primes, and their foot speed, or lack thereof, have become a serious problem for Belgium. Luckily, when Courtois is in form it’s literally impossible to score on him- just ask Liverpool about the Champions League final in May. They could very well be fine against Morocco and then Croatia, but to get deep into this tournament the Belgian back 3 is going to have to be much better.
Morocco has a really interesting group of attackers with which they could potentially take advantage of Belgium’s fairly weak back line. They aren’t necessarily a pace-heavy attacking group, like France or Portugal can be for example, but they’re certainly quick enough to make things tough for Belgium’s older and slower backs, much as Canada did. Hakim Ziyech is the big name, and the big story; he spent a year away from the national squad after a falling out with the previous manager- a year that included AFCON, which he missed. Now the Chelsea man is back in the XI under new boss Walid Reguagui, and will no doubt be extremely motivated to make up for lost time. He’s joined by Sevilla’s Youssef En-Nesyri and Sofiane Boufal of French side Angers, both of whom were both pivotal during Ziyech’s sabbatical, so to speak. None of their performances were particularly inspiring against Croatia, but now they have a game together under their belts, and there will be more opportunities against Belgium with their vastly different defensive philosophy. I’d expect these three to be back out there again, and I’d expect them to be better than they were last time out. Also look for the fullback duo, particularly Hakimi who used to be a very good winger, to get involved and really make things uncomfortable for the Belgium defense with some aggressive runs punctuated with crosses and progressive passes into the box.