2022 World Cup Previews: Belgium and Croatia Draw a Deep Group F
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is upon us, albeit five months later than it usually comes. Despite the delay, we are now oh so close to the month of the greatest soccer in the world as the 32 biggest countries in the sport go at it for the coveted Jules Rimet trophy. Competing for the hardware in Group F, you have Belgium, Croatia, Canada, and Morocco.
Group F kicks off on November 23 and features six matches that will include the No. 2 team in the world, a side that dominated North America, 2018’s runners-up, and the first African team ever to top a World Cup group.
With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at what you need to know about Group F.
World Cup Group F Logistics: Who’s in the Group, and when are the matches?
Before the 2022 World Cup knockout stage kicks off on December 3, Group F will play a round-robin tournament where each team plays the other once. Here are the dates that France, Denmark, Australia, and Tunisia go at it:
- Morocco vs. Croatia, November 23
- Belgium vs. Canada, November 23
- Croatia vs. Canada, November 27
- Belgium vs. Morocco, November 27
- Canada vs. Morocco, December 1
- Croatia vs. Belgium, December 1
The teams get three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. The top two teams with the most points at the end of the three matches will advance to the knockout rounds.
Now that we have the schedule of matches, let’s look at the squads that make up Group F.
The last gasp of the Belgium Golden Generation
Heading into the 2018 World Cup, Belgium was third in the FIFA World Rankings. The team cruised to the Knockout Stage over England, Tunisia, and Panama before cruising past Japan and beating Brazil to make the semifinals. However, they lost to the eventual champions, France.
Now the team is ranked No. 2, and the 2022 World Cup will be the likely last gasp of the Belgium golden generation of players who’ve played in the previous two or three World Cups.
The team is loaded with stars still, like last tournament’s Golden Gloves winner Thibaut (Real Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), and Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), among many other notable names.
This team has a real chance to win it all, and if they don’t, it may be a while before they get this kind of chance again.
Canada tries to build on an excellent CONCACAF performance
The Maple Leafs have only played in one other World Cup in 1986 but will be in the 2022 version and the 2026 event as one of the North American hosts.
In qualifying for this year’s World Cup, Canada finished first in the CONCACAF table ahead of Mexico and the United States.
Canada brings a roster heavy on MLS players with Maxime Crépeau (LAFC), Dayne St. Clair (Minnesota United), and Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), as well as several CF Montreal players. Bayern Munich full-back Alphonso Davies is the highest-profile player on the squad.
This is an excellent team that plays greater than the sum of its parts under 47-year-old English manager John Herdman. He helped lead the Canadian Women’s team to international prominence before taking over the Men’s side in 2018.
Croatia looks to move past the 2018 World Cup Finals hangover
Croatia may have reached its apex with its own golden generation in 2018 by making the Finals and losing a close 1-0 match to France. The team got out of their group in Euro 2020 but took a tough 5-3 loss to Spain in the Round of 16.
Now the players who led the team in 2018 are older, and the next generation of Croatians doesn’t seem quite ready to step up. Still, the team had Dejan Lovern (Zenit Saint Petersburg, 33), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea, 28), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid, 37), and Ivan Perišić (Tottenham, 33).
If the players above can find a Fountain of Youth in Qatar and play up to their considerable talent, Croatia can make another run. It’s just that age seems to be catching up with a lot of these players and, still playing a lot of minutes for their club teams, it may be hard to find that form in eight games in a month.
Morocco has the players to pull an upset
Ranked 22nd, Morocco is actually ahead of Canada (41) in the FIFA World Rankings. They are consistently one of the best African teams and have a solid group of players heading into the 2022 World Cup.
The squad has players from professional leagues all over Europe, with Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain), Noussair Mazraoui (Bayern Munich), and Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) being the boldest names.
In 2018, Morocco made its first World Cup in 20 years and had a respectable showing. That squad lost to Portugal and Iran 1-0 and drew with Spain 2-2. Four years older and wiser this year, don’t be surprised if the Moroccans pull an upset.
2022 World Cup Group F prediction: Belgium and Croatia Advance
Belgium is the best team in Group F and should go through accordingly. After that, it gets interesting. Croatia is a team at the end of its run, and after making the finals in 2018, you wonder how much this group has left in them.
Canada is a team on the rise and was so good during qualifying that picking them to finish second here isn’t absurd. However, in tournaments like this, experience usually wins out, so I’ll reluctantly take Croatia as the second team out of Group F.
The final group D standings will be:
There are the Group F predictions. Now let’s see what happens when the teams face off in Qatar.
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