Match previews for opening round of Groups E and F matches as Croatia, Germany, Spain and Belgium all kick off their 2022 FIFA World Cup title bids.
Whilst Croatia and Belgium together in Group F will be looking to make winning starts to ambitious title bids against Morocco and Canada respectively, Germany and Spain meanwhile are teams in transition but in the group of death against Japan and Costa Rica.
Now, here is a guide to all the action on day four of 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Morocco vs Croatia (Group F)
Boasting a decent squad with familar names like Ilias Chair, Anass Zaroury and Hakim Ziyech, Morocco certainly do have the talent available to spring a surprise but their Head Coach – Walid Regragui only took charge in August.
I am therefore intrigued as to what we should expect of Morocco but they’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets under Regragui albeit in friendlies, which is a positive sign yet they now need to step their game up further because this won’t be an easy game.
Croatia meanwhile finished as runners-up in 2018 and have recently qualified for UEFA Nations League Finals in a competitive group, so should be well prepared for this tournament with a solid blend of experience and youth.
My only concern though lies in their midfield because at 37 years-old, Luka Modric is still their key playmaker but I do worry slightly for their creativity if he was to get injured, although Mateo Kovacic and Mario Pasalic should provide adequate cover.
This game though feels like one which Croatia should really win if they can deliver but Morocco’s defence might be tough to break down, so patience might well be required here.
Prediction: Morocco 0-1 Croatia
Result: Morocco 0-0 Croatia
Germany vs Japan (Group E)
Boasting a much-changed squad compared to the team who suffered a shock Group Stage exit in 2018 as defending champions, Germany are currently a team still rebuilding off the back of a difficult few years with players at different stages of development with plenty of individual weaknesses to be exploited.
Victory therefore shouldn’t be assured here because the short preparatory time wouldn’t of helped compared to at normal tournaments, so Germany to me feel unpredictable at present but they do boast serious goalscorers who need to quickly step up.
Japan meanwhile scraped through their group in 2018 and came almighty close to eliminating Belgium in the Round of 16, but are now a team in transition with a solid blend of experience and youth so I do expect them to mount a tough fight here.
Most of Japan’s young players though will have been coached at Under-23s level by their manager – Hajime Moriyasu, who has also been in charge of the first-team since their exit at 2018 World Cup so there should be a solid unity in this Japanese squad.
Japan also have conceded just twice in one of their last five fixtures so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a defensive style deployed against Germany’s strong attack, yet this feels like a game which will be won by the 2014 winners if they can click and play as well as they did against England in September.
Prediction: Germany 2-0 Japan
Result: Germany 1-2 Japan
Spain vs Costa Rica (Group E)
Having reached the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2020, Spain certainly will be looking for a deep run with their squad, which currently seems to be in regeneration mode at present but still boasts strong talent even if Leeds’ Rodrigo has been snubbed despite his form.
Costa Rica meanwhile sprung a surprise in 2014 FIFA World Cup but were lacklustre in a difficult group four years later, so I am excited to see what they can deliver here with their wide 4-4-2 formation, which should offer space for quick-attacking moves if Spain go narrow.
Spain though do possess their own quality wide players who could thwart any surprise attacks by Costa Rica, so this could well become a nervy game of tactics of which finishing could be crucial.
Prediction: Spain 1-0 Costa Rica
Result: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica
Belgium vs Canada (Group F)
Having fallen short in their last four major tournaments and in UEFA Nations League, this tournament now is surely the last chance for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ to show their peak talent, so a strong showing is required here.
Manager, Roberto Martinez though do need to improve in his tactical planning because when Kevin De Bruyne got injured at UEFA Euro 2020, they lacked a strong tactical back-up plan in their defeat to Italy and left him on the pitch which proved costly.
Canada meanwhile are making only their second-ever World Cup appearance and with their possession-based and high-pressing play, it is imperative that they’re at their best because if Belgium get stuck in and dominate the ball then the Canadians could be in trouble.
Belgium though will be aware of Canada’s pace and power in their runs but do have certain players who can cause issues within their own runs, so this game could well be a tactical battle but one which I am backing the Belgians to edge.
Prediction: Belgium 1-0 Canada
Result: Belgium 1-0 Canada