In less than two weeks, the 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage will begin. Group F has some of Europe’s best club players: Belgium, Croatia, Canada, and Morocco. Belgium and Croatia are tournament favorites in Qatar. It is one of their golden generation’s final global chances. Canada is making its first World Cup debut since 1986, while Morocco is making its sixth.
Group F preview:
Belgium’s Eden Hazard applauds fans. John Sibley/Reuters
Belgium is known for chokes, like South Africa in cricket. As in previous tournaments, Belgium is a co-favorite. Their tendency to buckle under duress was evident in the 2018 World Cup semifinal against France. In the 2020 Euro Cup quarterfinal against Italy and the UEFA Nations Cup semifinal against France, expectations weighted them down. Qatar 2022 could be the Red Devils’ last chance to win a big title. Roberto Martinez, who led them to third place in Russia, will try again. His assistant is 1998 World Cup-winner Thierry Henry.
Belgium is talented. Their players play in Europe’s premier leagues. Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku merely need to repeat their club form internationally.
Lack of teamwork is a weakness. Belgium’s other worries are fitness and over-the-hill players.
Martinez relied on veterans, but Dalic replaced them with young players. Luka Modric, 37, is the team’s centrepiece. His presence lifts the team. Croats have done well continentally. In UEFA Nations League, they beat France and Denmark.
Midfield strength. Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic will join Modric in that area. Atalanta’s star-studded midfield includes Mario Pasalic.
Weakness: scoring. Other than Ivan Perisic, they lack a decent striker. Andrej Kramaric is unreliable.
Alphonso Davies plays. Henry Romero/Reuters
Canada waited 36 years to return to football’s top tournament. The Maple Leafs have only played in one World Cup, in 1986, when they were eliminated in the group round. After finishing first in CONCACAF qualifying, they’ll be confident heading to Qatar. Alphonso Davies is Bayern Munich’s star.
Davies and Buchanan’s lightning speed terrorises opposing defences. Davies is a versatile Bayern left defender. He’s played No. 10 for his country.
Canada, competing in the World Cup after 36 years, lacks the experience and big-match attitude to beat better opponents, especially from other continents.
Before a game, Morocco players pose. Reuters
Morocco went undefeated in African qualifying. Due to political unrest in neighbouring countries, they played some away games at home. Atlas Lions were the first African team to reach the knockout stage in 1986. At Qatar 2022, they won’t get past the group stage.
Morocco’s strengths include Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and PSG’s AchrafHakimi.Without a good No. 9, Morocco could struggle. Youssef En-Nesyri, Ayoub El Kaabi, and AbderrazakHamdallahcould not do it.