Unlikely hero Sabiri architect of Morocco success

Unlikely hero Sabiri architect of Morocco success
Unlikely hero Sabiri architect of Morocco success

Africa-Press – Lesotho. Morocco head coach Walid Regragui made multiple tactical tweaks to try to find a way past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on Sunday. Arguably the most inspired of the lot was the introduction of Abdelhamid Sabiri midway through the second half.

The midfielder was instrumental in Morocco breaking the deadlock only five minutes after coming on, whipping over a venomous free-kick that skimmed teammate Romain Saiss on its way into the net.

Sabiri was a surprise inclusion in Regragui’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM squad, given he had relatively little international experience and made his first appearance for the North African side only two months prior to the tournament.

Sabiri quickly earned the trust of the coach, however, and Regragui was sufficiently convinced by the player’s initial impression to include him in his World Cup plans.

Belgium v Morocco | Group F | FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM | Highlights Watch the highlights from the match between Belgium and Morocco played at Al Thumama Stadium, Doha on Sunday, 27 November 2022.

Abdelhamid’s time to shine Sabiri began his career in Germany and even represented the European nation at U-21 level. After giving a good account of himself at Paderborn, he moved to Italian second division club Ascoli in 2020 for more game time and to increase his chances of representing Morocco, the country where he was born in 1996.

He is now at Sampdoria and renowned for his trademark free-kicks, Sabiri tricking dumbfounded goalkeepers by whipping balls inside the front post. The tactic is reminiscent of the legendary Brazilian playmaker Juninho Pernambucano, who often forced keepers into desperate scrambles across their lines.

Sabiri joined up with the Morocco national side for the first time in September and made his first appearance in a friendly against Chile, coming off the bench to score and put the seal on a 2-0 win.

Barely a month after that debut, he was included in the party for Qatar. Sabiri’s free-kick against Belgium, touched home by Saiss, laid the platform for Zakaria Aboukhlal to add a second and complete a historic victory over the third-placed side from Russia 2018.

The result has propelled Regragui’s side to the brink of progress from their World Cup group, a feat managed only once by Morocco, when the team of 1986 defeated Portugal and shared goalless draws with England and Poland, before a single-goal loss to eventual champions West Germany.

Sabiri will hope he’s persuaded his coach to choose him from the start of Thursday’s pivotal fixture with Canada. Whatever happens from here, however, the 25-year-old will go back to Serie A after a prominent role in one of his country’s greatest victories.

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