Football / World Cup USA '94: Degryse strikes

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The Independent Online
Belgium. . .1

Morocco. . .0

IT IS scant comfort now for Wales but yesterday Belgium followed Romania in achieving a first-game victory in the World Cup finals to emphasise what a difficult qualifying group Terry Yorath's team, always the bridesmaids it would seem, had to endure.

Not that the European team had it easy. Morocco whose progress to the United States was not appreciated worldwide deserve sympathy for this narrow failure.

The temperature here was an oppressive 87F but as Jack Charlton's players can confirm after their two-week acclimatising stint it can go horribly higher than that.

The Belgians started as favourites although the conditions would clearly be to the Africans' advantage. As it turned out both sides quickly came to the boil and it produced one of the most open, exciting games of USA '94 so far.

Predictably the skilful Enzo Scifo was going to be a major influence and he mounted Belgium's first attack with a pass to Marc Degryse, who failed to take advantage. But the 11th minute found the Anderlecht striker at his best. He anticipated a lofted cross and just beat Khalil Azmi to the ball before guiding his header home.

Chances at either end continued to leave the crowd in excited anticipation and three minutes before a welcome break Morocco came as close as it is possible to get, Mohamed Chaouch letting fly with a powerful attempt that crashed back to safety off the crossbar.

Little had been seen of the new Belgium hope, the Croatian-born Josip Weber. Then in the closing minutes his breakaway had already been whistled for offside when the Moroccan goalkeeper clattered into him. Both were badly injured and Azmi was carried off on a stretcher.

BELGIUM (4-3-3): Preud'homme (KV Mechelen); Smidts (Antwerp), Grun (Parma), De Wolf (Anderlecht), Staelens; Van Der Elst (Club Brugge), Scifo (Monaco), Boffin (Anderlecht); Weber, Nilis, Degryse (Anderlecht). Substitutes: Emmers (Anderlecht) for Nilis, 54; Borkelmans (Club Bruges) for Boffin, 84.

MOROCCO (5-4-1): Azmi (Raja Casablanca); Abdellah (SV Waregem), El Hadrioui (FAR Rabat), Triki (Chateauroux), Naybet (Nantes), El Khalej (KAC Marrakech); El Hadoui (SCO Angers), Hadji (Nancy), Daoudi (WAC Casablanca), Hababi (Olympique Khouribga); Chaouch (OGC Nice). Substitutes: Samadi (FAR Rabat) for Khaouch, 82; Bahja (Kawkab Marrakesh) for El Hadaoui, 68; Alaoui (KAC Marrakesh) for Azmi, 88.

Referee: J Torres Cadena (Columbia).