News Matches
Winners & Losers

De Bruyne is right, the Golden Generation is over! Belgium winners, losers and ratings as Hazard struggles in shock Morocco loss

15:22 GMT 27/11/2022
Belgium Morocco GFX
The Red Devils once topped the FIFA world rankings, but they look a long way short of Qatar 2022 contenders right now

In the build-up to Belgium’s 2-0 defeat against Morocco, Kevin De Bruyne conceded that his country's so-called ‘Golden Generation’ was at an end, hinting that their chances of winning the World Cup were over even before the group stages were completed.

The Manchester City midfielder said when asked about the claims of his nation being contenders for the ultimate prize in Qatar: “No chance, we’re too old. I think our chance was 2018. We have a good team, but it is ageing.”

On the evidence of the latest showing from Roberto Martinez’s side on Sunday, De Bruyne makes a valid point, as a squad loaded with household names lacks the spark required to chase down the most prestigious of honours.

Belgium looked leggy and short on ideas throughout, with Hakim Ziyech seeing a goal on the stroke of half-time ruled out for offside before Abdelhamid Sabiri repeated the trick from a free-kick midway through the second 45 as he fired through and beyond Thibaut Courtois, Zakaria Aboukhlal then grabbed a second for Morocco in stoppage-time.

GOAL runs through all of the winners and losers from a lacklustre performance that leaves Belgium sweating on a place in the last-16 and facing more questions over their alarming lack of inspiration...

  • Hakim Ziyech Morocco 2022

    The Winners

    Abdelhamid Sabiri:

    During Huddersfield Town’s two-year spell in the Premier League between 2017 and 2019, Sabiri made just 13 appearances for the Terriers. He is now, though, on the books of Serie A outfit Sampdoria and the scorer of a match-winning goal at the World Cup finals. His big moment against Belgium came in the 73rd minute, just five minutes after he had been introduced off the bench. Sabiri whipped over a free-kick from the left that curled and dipped towards Courtois. With a runner getting across the Belgium goalkeeper, he was left helpless as the ball squeezed underneath him and over the line.

    Hakim Ziyech:

    The Chelsea winger has played just 148 minutes of Premier League football this season and appeared destined to miss out on World Cup selection at one stage after falling out with former Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic. He is in the Middle East, though, and remains the man most likely to provide a moment of magic for his country. Ziyech thought he had broken the deadlock in first-half stoppage-time but his whipped free-kick, which slipped over the body of an unsighted Courtois, was ruled out as Romain Saiss was judged to have been in an offside position and interfering with play when failing to get a glancing head on the ball. Ziyech did, though, provide the assist for Aboukhlal to fire Morroco’s second effort of the game into the roof of the net to cap an electrifying display.

    Morocco fans:

    If Walid Regragui’s side needed a lift prior to kick-off, then it was provided by those in the stands. The Moroccan national anthem was belted out by all concerned, with spines left tingling for those on the field – with goalkeeper Yassine Bounou deciding that he was unable to continue before a ball had been kicked. Belgium took control during the early exchanges, without ever really threatening, but a vocal and passionate fan base was not to be subdued. Wild celebrations were cut short when Ziyech’s effort late in the opening 45 minutes was chalked off, but Morocco’s loyal supporters were able to get the party started once Sabiri forced a breakthrough, Aboukhlal doubled their lead and dreams of a place in the knockout rounds were able to be formed.

  • Eden Hazard Belgium 2022

    The Losers

    Eden Hazard:

    The Real Madrid forward may still wear the captain’s armband for Belgium, but he no longer leads by example. Hazard delivered flashes of what he is capable of against Morocco, with his quick feet still capable of slipping beyond opposition defenders, but he drifts out of games for far too long and appears to lack that burst of pace which once made him so dangerous. Injuries and a lack of football at club level have been doing him few favours, with it difficult to flick a switch and turn back the clock to the days when he formed part of the global elite at Chelsea.

    Amadou Onana:

    The Everton midfielder was drafted into Belgium’s starting XI as Martinez shuffled his pack and Leicester star Youri Tielemans dropped to the bench. Onana adds greater energy to the engine room as a hard-working 21-year-old, but he also has a reckless streak to him. The youngster will play no part in what will be a crucial clash with Croatia on matchday three after picking up a needless yellow card. After leading with his elbow when competing for a high ball in the first half, Onana collected his second caution in as many games and must now serve a ban. He was replaced on the hour mark and faces a fight to win his place back.

    Roberto Martinez:

    The former Everton and Wigan boss has been at the Belgium helm since 2016, allowing him to take in three major tournament outings with a star-studded squad. Silverware has proved elusive, after two quarter-finals showings at European Championships and one run to the last four at World Cup 2018, and fingers of blame have to be pointed in his direction. Martinez cannot be held entirely responsible for those at his disposal underperforming, but he has failed to get the best out of a side that occupied top spot in the FIFA rankings for long periods. It appears as though a familiar story is set to play out at Qatar 2022.

  • Thibaut Courtois Belgium 2022

    Belgium ratings: Defence

    Thibaut Courtois (5/10):

    Arguably the best goalkeeper on the planet, but will be disappointed to have beaten by two efforts that were close to him.

    Thomas Meunier (5/10):

    Flies into too many clumsy challenges, and it was his foul that led to the free-kick from which Morocco opened the scoring.

    Toby Alderweireld (5/10):

    Was not overly troubled for long periods of the game, but was unable to keep a clean sheet.

    Jan Vertonghen (5/10):

    Can be troubled by pace in behind, which is a concern when coming up against lively attacking units.

  • Amadou Onana Belgium 2022

    Midfield

    Timothy Castagne (5/10):

    Not involved nearly as much as he would have liked at wing-back.

    Amadou Onana (5/10):

    Was brought in to deliver added drive, but fluffed his lines and must now serve a suspension.

    Axel Witsel (5/10):

    Another of of those that looks a shadow of his former self, with little impact made on proceedings and was at fault for the second goal.

    Thorgan Hazard (5/10):

    Tried to combine with his brother, but neither was able to get Belgium going.

  • Michy Batshuayi Belgium 2022

    Attack

    Kevin De Bruyne (6/10):

    Still looks the most likely to get Belgium going, but plays further forward than he does for Manchester City and is not involved as much as a result.

    Eden Hazard (5/10):

    Burst into life on a couple of occasions in the first half, but was easily contained by Achraf Hakimi and Co.

    Michy Batshuayi (5/10):

    Had a sight of goal inside the opening five minutes, but failed to make the most of that and barely got a look in afterwards.

  • Roberto Martinez Belgium 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Youri Tielemans (5/10):

    Failed to change the game as Belgium slipped into reverse.

    Dries Mertens (5/10):

    Fired in one shot from distance that was easily blocked.

    Leandro Trossard (5/10):

    Barely had a kick after being introduced in the second-half.

    Charles De Ketelaere (5/10):

    Lacking form at club level and this was not a game for him to make the difference.

    Romelu Lukaku (5/10):

    Given the last 10 minutes or so off the bench as a gamble on his fitness was taken ahead of schedule.

    Roberto Martinez (5/10):

    Mixed things up with his selection and introduced plenty of attacking substitutions, but nothing he did worked.