Now past half of the groups covered, we head over to Group F. It’s one of the quiet groups in this year’s tournament but a mix of Belgium, Morocco, Canada, and Croatia should not scare you away from tuning into games due to a lack of coverage. Each team has a point to prove and an expectation to live up to, so what can we expect?
Belgium’s Last Dance?
Many big sides have a massive point to prove, but Belgium who have only come away with a 3rd place finish in the 2018 World Cup since the arrival of their “Golden Generation” in 2014. They have produced world-class player after world-class player but still haven’t meshed completely. The primes of their icons have also been a little off, with Eden Hazard now in the twilight of his career in terms of form while Kevin de Bruyne is hitting his peak.
Tactically, Belgium before this year suffered from too many options. It’s not necessarily a big issue but if you don’t have the right coach, it becomes wasteful. Now, they head to Qatar with their worst defensive lineup on paper since 2014, older versions of key players and even some players having to play out of position to accommodate their three-at-the-back players. The instances are too many to point out but playing with this chip on their shoulder in a manageable group can set them up nicely for the rest of the tournament.
Croatia Joins the Dance
Perhaps this a lazy subheading, but Croatia is coming to the end of its past golden age with better spirits than Belgium. Reaching the finals and losing to by far the best team in Russia back in 2018 was a great peak for Croatia, as well as maintaining form in the following Euros. Despite never winning anything, they have more than made the most of their football over the past eight years.
In any case, expectations remain for the Croatians. The group is much more even than people give it credit for, but Croatia is still said to be the second best team in the group. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Ivan Perisic all face their final tournaments but still possess the quality to go deep in and lead Croatia if they make it beyond the group stages.
Canada’s New Age Debut
Another one of the fan favorites this year due to their extended hiatus from World Cup football, Canada finds themselves in a tricky group. They have some big names but overall, remain one of the weaker sides in the entire tournament with individual promise.
The headliner is obviously going to be Bayern München’s Alphonso Davies but they also have talent up front in Lille’s Jonathan David. The rest of the players are cult heroes such as Stephen Eustaquio and Atiba Hutchinson but the feel-good factor in the team is in full swing, and after topping the CONCACAF in qualifiers, there still is some expectation for the Canadian national team.
The Silent, But Deadly, Morocco
Being put in a group alongside two European sides with world-class names and somewhat of a newcomer with an emotionally driven narrative will always shift focus away from you but Morocco more than deserves some attention. The dominant African side has lost only two of their last 17 matches and boasts a ton of talent in many spots in the field, proving to be another dark horse.
The likes of Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech headline the squad but players such as Ilias Chair look to impress and make their name known in global football in Qatar. The backline is also quite strong, with Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, and Yassine Bounou solidifying the defense. This group is far from predictable, so don’t be shocked if you see Morocco qualify after giving the others a hard time.