Match previews for day eight of 2022 FIFA World Cup as Groups E and F take centre stage, including a blockbuster clash between two European giants.
In Group E, Japan and Spain know that victories over Costa Rica and Germany respectively would settle the group with a game to spare, which in-turn would mean a shock early exit for Germany.
Belgium meanwhile can secure qualification in Group F with a win over Morocco, whilst Croatia meet Canada in an intriguing clash.
Japan vs Costa Rica (Group E)
Following their shock comeback win over Germany in midweek, Japan come into this game knowing that victory would see them safely through to the Last 16.
Hajime Moriyasu’s Samurai Blues though were wasteful despite their incredible turnover pace from defence to attack, but excellent defending saw them weather Germany’s threats before finding their clinical edge which they must now bring into this game.
Costa Rica meanwhile were a defensive disaster against Spain with poor marking which saw them outplayed from start to finish, whilst their attack wasn’t much better so a huge improvement is required but I do wonder how much of their morale has been hit by their midweek embarrassment.
This clash though feels like it is Japan’s to lose and I can’t even see them slipping up if they can tidy up their finishing touch.
Prediction: Japan 2-0 Costa Rica
Result: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica
Belgium vs Morocco (Group F)
Their clinical victory over Canada was certainly lucky by Belgium’s standards because their attack largely looked toothless at times, whilst their defence absolutely rode their luck throughout the game because if Thibaut Courtois hadn’t been in goal then they likely would of lost.
Roberto Martinez therefore needs to ensure that his Belgian Red Devils regroup and come out with more solidness, especially with better service to Kevin De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi who were the only real bright sparks in outfield.
Morocco though would of watched that game just hours after holding Croatia to a goalless draw and surely will look to come out and attack with slightly more high-energy pace plus intensity, than what we saw against Croatia on top of their solid defence.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morocco roll up and deliver the same style that Canada produced because this Belgium team do honestly look ready for the taking, although beating Courtois in goal will be vital to getting a result.
Prediction: Belgium 1-1 Morocco
Result: Belgium 0-2 Morocco
Croatia vs Canada (Group F)
The only way to sum up Croatia’s opening effort is ‘lacklustre’ because their attacks were pretty poor amidst their squad quality and individual player form, although they did defend well in their management of Morocco’s pace and intensity.
Canada meanwhile have plenty to be positive about because they absolutely dominated Belgium, yet were wasteful so I do hope that they can come out and deliver more of the same but with tidier finishing than seen against Belgium.
Defeat here however would see Canada eliminated but they have already shown no fear so elimination likely won’t be on their minds too much.
Now if John Herdman’s Maple Leafs do turn up and continue to play aggressive gutsy football then I do worry for Croatia, because the 2018 runners-up seem to be lacking that attacking spark which worked well four years ago despite scraping through the knockouts to the final.
Prediction: Croatia 0-1 Canada
Result: Croatia 4-1 Canada
Spain vs Germany
Having comfortably cruised past Costa Rica in their opener, Spain now face an early test of their title credentials where replicating their disciplined defence and aggressive dictorial pressing could be key to getting on top of Germany quickly.
Hansi Flick’s Germany though did have a strong attacking intensity about them against Japan despite needing patience in large parts of that game, yet a mixture of inconsistent defending and poor finishing in open play cost them a result.
Another concern for Flick though is that if Japan beat Costa Rica, this clash would become a must-win for the 2014 champions because defeat would see them eliminated after just two matches.
On that note, it would be interesting to see how Germany approach this game because they must go all-out if they want to keep their dreams alive, yet Spain are a well set-up team who I suspect will have too much for them if their defence or end product doesn’t improve.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Germany
Result: Spain 1-1 Germany