Belgium vs Morocco predictions: Red Devils to edge into knockout stages
Belgium were far from convincing as they edged past Canada in their opening Group F fixture at World Cup 2022 and they could face a similarly tough encounter against Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.
There is plenty of expectation surrounding Roberto Martinez and his players at these finals, with many people suggesting this is the last chance for Belgium's 'Golden Generation' to win a major international trophy.
That pressure may have been weighing on their shoulders during Wednesday's nervy 1-0 victory over a Canada side which had plenty of opportunities, most notably the first-half penalty from Alphonso Davies that was saved by Thibaut Courtois.
However, the Red Devils were able to snatch the three points thanks to Michy Batshuayi's goal on the stroke of half-time and they will now clinch their place in the round-of-16 with a game to spare if they beat Morocco.
That may be easier said than done, as Morocco showed their qualities, particularly in defence, in the 0-0 draw with Croatia in their group opener, a result that has boosted the Atlas Lions' chances of reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.
Martinez remains hopeful that Romelu Lukaku will be able to play some part on Sunday, but the Inter Milan striker has only featured in 29 minutes of football since the end of August due to a hamstring issue.
Belgium's record goalscorer is more likely to be saved until their final group game against Croatia, which means Wednesday's matchwinner Batshuayi should lead the line once again.
Morocco could name the same XI that started against Croatia, with full-back Noussair Mazraoui having seemingly recovered from the muscle issue that forced him to be stretchered off during that game.
Yahia Attiyat-Allah is on standby if the Bayern Munich star is not passed fit.
Belgium have reached at least the quarter-finals of their last four major tournaments and they won all three of their group games at the 2018 World Cup.
The Red Devils have lost two of their last three matches though, including a 2-1 defeat to Morocco's North African rivals Egypt in the build up to these finals.
Morocco have only made it beyond the group stage in one of their five previous appearances at the World Cup, with their last victory on the global stage coming against Scotland in 1998.
The Atlas Lions are on a six-match unbeaten run and have not conceded a goal in their last five fixtures, with that defensive resolve being highlighted further during their stalemate with Croatia.
This match could follow a similar pattern to Belgium's group opener, with the Red Devils likely to see plenty of the ball, but they may find it tough to break this resilient Morocco defence down.
Morocco are unlikely to show too much adventure, as a point would likely be a good result for Walid Regragui's side heading into their final group game against Canada.
With Belgium's main source for goals, Lukaku, likely to be missing once again, this certainly appears like a game that could well be lacking in the attacking department.
However, Martinez still has plenty of forward options at his disposal — Batshuayi, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to name but a few — and that should be enough to help Belgium get over the line, with the side ranked second in the world available at 14/5 with LiveScore Bet to win and there to be under 2.5 goals in the match.
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