In recent years, Belgium has fallen short of expectations, but if they can defeat Canada, Morocco, and Croatia in Group F, they may finally be in line for World Cup glory.
The World Cup 2018 semifinalists Croatia, who finished as runners-up four years ago, African underdogs Morocco, and Canada, who are competing in just their second appearance ever, will compete alongside the Belgian Red Devils, who have one of the most star-studded squads in international football.
Could this be the year that Belgium finally lives up to the hype? One of Europe’s strongest and deadliest teams is likely to reach the final in 2022 after reaching the quarterfinals in 2014 and the semifinals in 2018.
It was disappointing to lose in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020, and their fourth-place showing in the Nations League the previous year demonstrates that they still aren’t able to fully control the European scene. Nevertheless, they easily secured their place in Qatar by going undefeated in qualifying with six wins from eight games.
Belgium’s team has a lot of quality, but Kevin de Bruyne continues to be its best player.
Fellow midfielders Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans make up an impressive midfield trio, while Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard form part of a deadly attack – regardless of their recent club form.
So how are the other three teams looking in group F.
Canada is back on the world’s biggest stage for the first time since their debut in the 1986 World Cup finals, and this time, they’re not just there to fill out Group F’s roster—they’re hoping to make more history.
Although making it to the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals the previous year was a feat in and of itself, Canada’s qualification for the 2022 World Cup after topping the North American qualifying group, ahead of the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica, demonstrates that the country should not be underrated just yet.
Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich and Jonathan David of Lille must improve if they want to have any chance of finishing higher than last in Group F and even moving on.
Club Brugge forward Cyle Larin provides added threat in attack, while former Premier League favourite Junior Hoilett is also on board.
Morocco has qualified for the World Cup for a second time in a row and will be looking to improve on their group stage exit in 2018, when they finished dead last with no victories.
Morocco’s final game ended in a notable 2-2 draw with Spain, but this time around, the chances of them moving on to the knockout rounds are much higher.
The Atlas Lions advanced to the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, and they also secured a ticket to Qatar by defeating the Democratic Republic of the Congo 5-2 in a play-off to advance in the World Cup qualifying process.
Getting a win against Belgium or Croatia could help Morocco if they are able to defeat Canada.
The likes of Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi and Chelsea ’s Hakim Ziyech will be key to a successful group stage.
Croatia has demonstrated that they can compete with the best, so while replicating their run to the final in 2018 is unlikely, they will aim to have similar success throughout this year’s tournament if they can advance out of Group F.
Although last year’s disappointment of being eliminated from Euro 2020 in the last 16 was a wake-up call, Croatia must find a way to demonstrate that losses to Argentina and England on their way to the 2018 final was no fluke.
In order to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, they needed to defeat Russia in their final group match.
A stacked midfield including Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic contains their biggest strengths, while Ivan Perisic and Mislav Orsic in attack will cause trouble for anyone. At the back, Dejan Lovren should partner RB Leipzig’s highly-rated Josko Gvardiol.