World Cup 2022: Belgian coach Martinez welcomes the shock of Morocco
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has highlighted the links between Belgium and Morocco after the two countries were drawn in Group F at the 2022 World Cup.
Both sides will also face Canada and Croatia in host country Qatar, but it’s the bond between the countries with deep roots that stands out.
“Morocco are a team we know very well,” Martinez told BBC Sport Africa.
“Obviously we have a huge Moroccan population in Belgium and many Belgian-born players qualify to play for Morocco.
“We follow these talented players from an early age. We even share the technical staff. We know each other very well.”
Belgium is home to a huge Moroccan community, with more than a third of the country’s total population of foreign origin in 2021 according to Statbel, the Belgian federal government’s statistical agency.
Moroccan internationals Sofian Chakla, Selim Amallah and Tarik Tissoudali all ply their trade in the Belgian top flight.
AA Gent’s Tissoudali was among the scorers as the Atlas Lions booked their place in their sixth World Cup final, eliminating DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate on Tuesday.
“We know their passion,” Martinez said. “We know the facilities that the Moroccan federation has developed and the experience of the coach, a coach who has been in this situation before.”
With Morocco, coach Vahid Halilhodžić qualified a country for the World Cup for the fourth time, repeating the feat of taking Algeria, Ivory Coast and Japan to the world final.
He hopes his men can replicate Morocco’s 4-1 win over Belgium in a friendly in 2008, the last time the two sides met.
The meeting between Belgium and Morocco on November 27 at the Al Thumama stadium in Doha will be the second time the countries have faced each other at a World Cup following the European side’s 1-0 victory in the FIFA World Cup. world 1994.
The Atlas Lions will open their World Cup campaign against 2018 runners-up Croatia on November 23 and close out their group against Canada, who have qualified for the first time since 1986, on December 1.