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Riots break out in Belgium after shocking loss to Morocco in World Cup 2022

A man with his face covered and a fire extinguisher is seen during clashes in Brussels after the World Cup football match between Belgium and Morocco, on November 27, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

After Morocco pulled off another FIFA World Cup 2020 shock on Sunday by defeating Belgium 2-0, riots have erupted in the heart of Brussels and several other Belgian cities as angry fans torched cars and smashed shop windows.

Police deployed water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, according to reports. At least one person suffered injuries, Brussels police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere said. At least 11 people were arrested amid fierce clashes between protesters and police. 

Eight people were detained in Antwerp, and two police officials were injured in Rotterdam after fans allegedly “pelted police with fireworks and glass.”

Philippe Close, mayor of Brussels, strongly condemned the violence and urged people to stay away from the city center, adding that the authorities were doing their utmost to restore order in the streets.

“The police are doing everything they can to maintain public order,” he said in posts on Twitter, adding "I have ordered the police to carry out arrests of the troublemakers."

Brussels police said in a statement that "dozens of people, including some wearing hoodies, sought confrontation with the police, which compromised public safety" even before the end of the match.

It was not immediately clear if the riots took place due to clashes between fans of rivals teams, as Belgium is home to nearly 500,000 people of Moroccan descent.

Violence also erupted in the northern city of Antwerp where a dozen people were detained.

The eastern city of Liege also saw some 50 people attacking a police station, breaking windows and damaging two police vehicles, reports said.

Police in the neighboring Netherlands also reported riots in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and The Hague where Moroccan football fans were celebrating their team's victory.

It was Morocco's third win ever at the World Cup, and first since they beat Scotland in 1998, with a late goal from Romain Saiss in the 73rd minute followed by another from Zakaria Aboukhlal in extra time. 

Belgium is now at the verge of being knocked out in the group stage. They will face Croatia on Thursday in their final must-win group game.

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