The tale of two midfield wizards – Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) and Luka Modric (Croatia) – is set to make football an entertaining affair for Group F matches.
While De Bruyne continues to be the midfield architect for Manchester City, Modric – the Golden Ball winner in the previous World Cup – will hope to lead his team to a run similar to that in Russia, four years ago.
The 2022 World Cup may just be the last World Cup for a number of stars, such as Modric, De Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld – all of whom have been very successful for their clubs.
On the international level, Modric has led his side to the 2018 World Cup final, while Belgium’s golden generation will look to put up a final showdown in Qatar.
Romelu Lukaku – the highest goalscorer of Belgium – has struggled with game time on the club level, juggling between Chelsea and Inter Milan and will hope to cement his reputation as a forward with a potential comeback in Qatar.
When Canada last played in the World Cup, its current captain Atiba Hutchinson was just three years old and is the only player in the squad who was born then.
When the Maple Leafs take the field in Qatar, the 39-year-old will look to script history in the World Cup.
Though Croatia and Belgium look the stronger ones on paper, the FIFA World Cup has historically proved that anything can happen on the field – something that will be the agenda for Canada and Morocco in Qatar.
This will be Morocco’s second successive World Cup appearance, after returning to the tournament after 20 years, in 2018, while Canada will play its second World Cup and the first in over three decades.
The highest-ranked team in the group (No. 2) may have seen some players of its Golden generation – Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld – retire or get past their prime, but its intensity under coach Roberto Martinez has not dimmed.
Belgium at FIFA World Cup, FIFA ranking: 2
The highest-ranked team in the group (No. 2) may have seen the captain of its Golden generation – Vincent Kompany – retire, but its intensity under coach Roberto Martinez has not dimmed.
With six wins and 25 goals in eight matches, Martinez’s side finished as the topper in Group E of the European qualifiers – securing a direct place in Qatar.
At the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, it will become the 11th different nation to reach the landmark of 50 matches at the tournament.
In defence, former Tottenham Hotspur teammates Alderweireld and Vertonghen are expected to team up, as De Bruyne continues to pull strings in the midfield, alongside Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans.
The country’s top two goal scorers – Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard – are expected to lead the attack.
Though Lukaku has been named in the squad, Martinez will struggle to take the final call on him, with the striker recovering from a hamstring injury at the moment.
Martinez, however, will have a dicey task at hand as both the forwards have not been in their prime, to the run-up for the World Cup.
FULL BELGIUM SQUAD
Canada made history when it secured a World Cup spot after 36 years, topping its qualifying group.
Canada at FIFA World Cup, FIFA ranking: 41
The team has seen promising youngsters like Cyle Larin, Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies take centre stage as Canada scored 23 goals in 14 matches in its qualifying campaign – the maximum among CONCACAF teams.
The last time it played in a World Cup, Canada lost all its group-stage matches with no goals to its name – something it will look to change this time around, in Qatar.
Davies most recently picked up a minor injury during the Bundesliga match, but his club, Bayern Munich, has clarified that the 22-year-old will be ready before the World Cup.
Backup goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau and defender Scott Kennedy have been ruled out with a broken leg and shoulder injury respectively.
However, veteran captain Hutchinson has shown glimpses of hope, returning to the field after recuperating from a bone bruise. If he misses out, Larin is expected to lead Canada.
FULL CANADA SQUAD
Morocco has seen a change in the coaches despite Vahid Halilhodzic guiding the Atlas Lions to the World Cup.
Morocco at FIFA World Cup, FIFA ranking: 22
The Bosnian was replaced by a former Morocco international Walid Regragui – someone who has shown, in friendlies against Chile, the attacking approach the fans can expect in Qatar.
Hakim Ziyech, who after friction with Halilhodzic, had decided to retire, is also expected back in action along with PSG’s Achraf Hakimi, who has established himself as one of the best attacking full-backs in the world.
Injury woes keep defenders Adam Masina out and Nayf Aguerd doubtful for the World Cup as the team looks to shine in its sixth appearance in the tournament.
FULL MOROCCO SQUAD
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The dark horse of the previous World Cup, Croatia, finished as the runner-up four years ago. In Qatar, the team led by Luka Modric will look to improve on the performance in Croatia’s sixth appearance in the tournament.
Croatia at FIFA World Cup, FIFA ranking: 12
Though the team will be without veteran midfielder Ivan Rakitic (who retired in 2020), it will present Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic a chance to step up, alongside Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic.
Croatia finished as the topper in Group H of the European World Cup qualifiers and has scored in every World Cup match since 2006, with 22 goals in 11 games since a 0-0 draw against Japan, 16 years ago.
In the World Cup, it has not played against any of the teams from Group F – making its clashes unpredictable and interesting at the same time.
FULL CROATIA SQUAD
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