By Sam Goodwin
BRUSSELS - Belgium's shock loss to Morocco at the World Cup has sparked violent scenes in Brussels as fans took to the streets to riot on Sunday night with several incidents breaking out.
Police detained about a dozen people after they deployed water cannon and fired tear gas to disperse crowds in Brussels.
Dozens of rioters overturned and torched cars, set electric scooters on fire and pelted cars with bricks. Brussels police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere said police moved in after one person suffered facial injuries.
Brussels mayor Philippe Close urged people to stay away from the city centre and said authorities were doing their utmost to keep order in the streets. Even subway and tram traffic had to be interrupted on police orders.
“Those are not fans, they are rioters. Moroccan fans are there to celebrate,” Close said. “I condemn in the strongest terms the incidents of this afternoon.
"The police have already firmly intervened. I therefore advise against fans coming to the city centre. The police are doing all they can to maintain public order. I have ordered the police to carry out arrests of the troublemakers.”
There were also disturbances in the city of Antwerp and Liege. “Sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to run amok,” said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.
Police in the neighboring Netherlands said violence erupted in the port city of Rotterdam, with riot officers attempting to break up a group of 500 football supporters who pelted police with fireworks and glass. Media reported unrest in the capital Amsterdam and The Hague.
The scenes were completely different in Morocco as fans took to the streets to celebrate with joy. Their victory of the football heavyweights of Belgium was one of the biggest upsets of World Cup and was enthusiastically celebrated by fans with Moroccan immigrant roots in many Belgian and Dutch cities.
Morocco's incredible upset victory over Belgium
Belgium loss leaves Kevin De Bruyne and the 2018 semi-finalists in danger of failing to make the knockout stage. Substitute Abdelhamid Sabiri broke the deadlock when he outsmarted Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois by whipping in a free kick from a tight angle at the near post in the 73rd minute.
Zakaria Aboukhlal then guided a shot into the roof of the net from a pass by Ziyech in stoppage time, to the delight of the deafening support for Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium. Morocco even had to cope with losing goalkeeper Yassine Bounou between the singing of the national anthem and kick-off.
Bounou said he was feeling dizzy and was seen in a lengthy discussion with referee Cesar Ramos of Mexico, before being replaced by Munir El Kajoui. The win was Morocco's first at a World Cup since 1998 and only the third in their history.
The victory was a triumph for coach Walid Regragui. Since he took over in September, Morocco have kept clean sheets in six successive matches.
"Today we have achieved nothing. I know everyone is delighted but I know football and you need to respect the game," Regragui said. "I want everybody to be happy now but we need to recover quickly and get back to work.
"Canada will be a hard team to play and we have to respect them. We have to keep fighting, we want to get past this round and go to the next level."
Regragui was effusive in his praise for his squad, saying: "We played against one of the best teams in the world with big players, but we know that if you don't give 100 per cent, it is impossible to win. With these players and these fans, anything is possible."
Belgium, ranked second in the world behind Brazil, had won their last seven group games at the World Cup. They would have become the second team after defending champions France to qualify for the knockout stage if they had beaten Morocco. However they will now will play 2018 finalist Croatia in what will be a crucial final group game.