World Cup 2022: Belgium vs Croatia match preview

Who: Belgium vs Croatia, Group F

Where: Al-Rayyan Stadium

When: Thursday, December 1, at 6pm (15:00 GMT)

FIFA rating: Belgium (2), Croatia (12)

Speculation over Belgium’s demise is drastically exaggerated, Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic mentioned forward of Thursday’s decisive showdown between the 2 Group F sides.

“We are playing against the second-best football team in the world and they were number one,” he advised reporters on Wednesday.

Indeed, the Red Devils, as Belgium are recognized, are at present ranked behind solely Brazil by FIFA. But whereas Dalic is aware of his group can’t take them frivolously, Belgium stand on the precipice of a shock World Cup exit as they head into Thursday’s match.

Belgium’s opening recreation towards Canada noticed them outplayed for giant components of the 90 minutes, and so they have been fortunate to flee with three factors after some wayward ending from the opposition.

Kevin de Bruyne was not impressed along with his group’s efficiency towards Morocco [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

They have been additional humbled of their second match when a rampant Morocco defeated them with two second-half targets. Belgium’s flat efficiency led Kevin de Bruyne to say his group, which got here third on the 2018 World Cup, is “too old” to achieve World Cup success this 12 months.

Later, studies emerged that there had been a dressing room argument between De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and veteran defender Jan Vertonghen. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has since dismissed these studies as “invented stories”.

What’s undoubtedly actual is the danger of elimination the Belgians face as they tackle Croatia, who’ve loved a greater begin to the World Cup.

Croatia performed out a cagey goalless draw towards Morocco of their opening match however fired 4 previous Canada of their second recreation.

Morocco Vs Croatia
The masked Croat Josko Gvardiol will begin as centre-back towards Belgium [Showkat Shafi/ Al Jazeera]

Both groups reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, with Croatia beating England 2-1 in further time and Belgium narrowly shedding to eventual winners France 1-0.

Belgium, who head into the ultimate group stage match with solely three factors, should win to ensure qualification. A draw would suffice provided that Canada beat Morocco by a margin of 4 targets of their Group F recreation, which can be performed on the identical time.

Croatia have a less complicated path to the Round of 16. A draw would assure qualification. But Dalic dominated out any notion that his group can be comfortable to play for a draw.

“We will play as we did against Canada, high quality, high tempo. It’s going to be a difficult game,” he mentioned.

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been battling a thigh damage, might begin for Belgium after approaching in its place towards Canada. Defensive midfielder Amadou Onana is suspended after receiving two yellow playing cards within the first two video games and can probably get replaced by Youri Tielemans.

Despite the group’s struggles up to now, Belgian defender Timothy Castagne dismissed solutions that the facet was in bother.

“The first two games were not as good as we hoped. We didn’t show everything we are capable of,” Castagne mentioned. “But we are not in crisis.”

It’s unclear whether or not Ivan Perisic, the Tottenham Hotspur winger who claimed two assists towards Canada, will be capable to begin for Croatia after being damage. He could be changed by Dinamo Zagreb’s Mislav Orsic.

The recreation between the top-ranked sides of Group F was at all times going to be a troublesome contest. As one of many ultimate matches of a still-undecided group, it’s now a decisive contest that would crush desires or carry hopes.