/ 17 November 2022

2022 World Cup: What’s the deal in group F?

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Belgium's golden boys have one last chance to win a major trophy and Kevin De Bruyne will be the main man. (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

The Fifa World Cup brings the possibility of upsets, unforeseeable circumstances and the teeth-grinding vexation of controversy. It also brings contenders to a table that has often allowed only European and South American nations as diners. The Mail & Guardian will look at each group before the competition begins to determine who might be the nation to replace France as the world champions. Group F consists of Belgium, Canada, Croatia and Morocco.


What’s their deal?

The Belgian team enters this World Cup with far less hype than the previous two. Since 2018, they have lost their star defender Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard looks half the player he was, Romelu Lukaku has struggled with form and injuries in the last year and players like Dries Mertens and Axel Witsel have moved on from playing at the highest level in club football. 

Still, there is no side that will take this Belgian side lightly. They are still second in the Fifa rankings, behind Brazil, and went unbeaten in their World Cup qualifier group. 

But their 2022 form has been inconsistent. They have won just four of their last nine international games and have been leaking goals. This further elaborates that a lot of the Belgium players are past their best, including the defensive pair of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. 

Belgium are likely to go through this group but finishing at the summit of it may just elude them if Croatia are in the mood.

However, this feels like the last chance for the nation’s golden era to grab a piece of international silverware. Having finished third in 2018, their experience could play a part in how far they go this time around.

Star player

Kevin de Bruyne will be the force that drives Belgium forward in this tournament. They usually play him in his favoured number 10 role behind Hazard and Lukaku, and with those two really needing to hit form, it’s impossible to think of a better player than De Bruyne to be feeding them. 

He has already served up 10 assists for Manchester City in the Premier League this season and he can always provide a spectacular moment that might win his side a game when it is very cagey. 

If we get a few masterclasses from the magician, the Belgian team could renew the hype in them. 


What’s their deal?

Canada has only appeared once before at the World Cup. They didn’t win a game in 1986 and could face a similar fate in 2022. 

Like most international sides, the Canadians enforce a system with three defenders but don’t use their most destructive weapon as a wingback or even a winger. Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies is used as a free roamer in this side. He usually starts in the number 10 position and is asked to do a lot more than he is used to.

Davies is good technically and proved in the World Cup qualifiers that he is more than comfortable playing so far up the field. 

However, Canada does leak goals and it might be a task too tough for them to get out of this group.

Star player

While Davies will be crucial for Canada, Lille striker Jonathan David is a serial killer in front of goal and can hurt any team with his pace, ability to finish with both feet and aerial presence. He has scored nine times in the French league this season and provides crucial support for Davies. 

It’s no secret that Davies will trouble opposition with his pace, but he will still need someone to finish off the chances he creates, and David provides that option. 

Still, even with the talent of these two, Canada will need a miracle as big as Qatar hosting the World Cup. 


What’s their deal?

Runners up in 2018, the Croatian side return to the World Cup as dark horses. They still have a well-balanced team but players have aged and might not be able to keep up the same pace for the entirety of the tournament. 

Croatia have a defence embodied by rising star Joško Gvardiol, who plays at RB Leipzig in Germany. The defender has many top clubs chasing his signature after a breakthrough season in the Bundesliga in 2021. 

They may struggle in attack, with no real experience in the number nine position, but the Croatian side will thrive in midfield. Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic make up the three in midfield and each one of them offers something different. 

Brozovic will play a holding role, break up play and offer the defence additional support; Kovacic is good on the ball and does the box-to-box running and Modric will be spraying passes between the lines hoping to get the attackers in behind. 

The Croatian team should have too much in their locker for this group but their game against Belgium might determine who goes into the round of 16 playing lesser opposition. 

Star player

2018 World Cup golden ball winner Modric will once again be Croatia’s main man. The Real Madrid midfielder showed last season that his composure in the midfield is still marvellous. 

He can also produce world-class passes and finishes when he needs to, but at 37, the midfielder’s greatest quality is to dictate the pace of the game as if he was leading an orchestra. 

This can assist Croatia in controlling games from start to finish, especially in the game against Belgium, who have periods where they like to play at a frantic pace. 

Modric’s contribution will once again be critical to Croatia’s progression in the tournament. 


What’s their deal?

In their previous five World Cup appearances, Morocco have only made it past the group stage once and that was in 1986. 

Despite exiting in the group stage in 2018, Morocco showed courage in a group that contained Spain and Portugal. They are also a very exciting team to watch. Actually, in modern-day football, any team that lines up in a 442 formation is exciting to watch. 

The team is built around unity which could see them mount a challenge in this group. They do have a bunch of talented individuals, such as Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, PSG fullback Achraf Hakimi, Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui and Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech. 

The cohesion of this team will be a key factor in their games against Croatia and Belgium. If these players can establish some chemistry, they can really trouble teams down the flanks. 

This group will also test their defensive steel. Stopping playmakers like Luka Modric and Kevin de Bruyne will not be easy, but if they do manage to stop them and advance, Morocco could go further than anyone expected. 

Star player

Hakimi and Ziyech will be the key men for Morocco down the right. Hakimi’s ability to get forward from right back, coupled with his outrageous pace, will cause a problem for any side with lazy wingers, while Ziyech will provide more technical play finding passes, pushing pinpoint deliveries into the box for their target man Youssef En-Nesyri to attack. 

Bounou will also be vital in goal. He had an excellent season with Sevilla in Spain last year and will need to be at his best to bail out the African side against the best attackers in the world.