World Cup Group F preview

We’re just six days away from the start of the World Cup! We’re continuing our preview series with a look at Group F. If you haven’t yet, join our World Cup predictor challenge at Fotmob.

World Cup Previews

GROUP A | GROUP B | GROUP C | GROUP D | GROUP E


Belgium 🇧🇪 (FIFA Ranking: 2)

How they got here

By cruising through qualifying.

Belgium were undefeated in UEFA Group E, winning six and drawing two. It was a comparatively weak group, with Wales finishing a distant second.

The outlook

The phrase “golden generation” gets thrown around a lot with this team. A lot of times, it’s just talk, but in Belgium’s case, it might just be true. This squad has been absolutely packed with some of the most elite players in the modern game for the last six or so years, but they haven’t won a single trophy. 

Now, they’re getting towards the end of their run with this current crop. Their starting center back pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderwireld are 35 and 33, respectively. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are both 31. Even Romelu Lukaku, still just 29, has seen his club form drop in the last few years. This group has been generationally talented, and 2022 may just be their last chance to win a World Cup.

It’s not all doom and gloom. De Bruyne is still one of the very best midfielders in the world. There’s an exciting new crop of players coming through, including 19-year-old center back Zeno Debast (a potential starter in Qatar), 20-year-old winger Jérémy Doku and 25-year-old midfielder Youri Tielemans.

At their best, Belgium are right up there with the very best sides at the tournament. They should cruise through the group without too many issues. Can they do it in the knockout rounds when it really counts, thought?

Key players

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)

Predicted XI (3-4-2-1)

Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderwireld, Zeno Debast; Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Thomas Munier; Eden Hazard, Leandro Trossard; Romelu Lukaku

Predicted group finish

1st.

You don’t want to assume that any team will breeze through their group at a World Cup… but come on. Maybe I’m jinxing them. I don’t see them having much trouble at all in Group F.

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+1400


Canada 🇨🇦 (FIFA Ranking: 41)

How they got here

By stunning Concacaf.

The Canucks qualified for their first World Cup since 1986 by finishing first in Concacaf. They took 28 points from 14 games, including taking four points from both the United States and Mexico. They punched above their weight in qualifying, and look to do the same in Qatar.

The outlook

Canada’s success in qualifying is a result of youth development. None embodies this more than Alphonso Davies. After breaking out in MLS as a 15-year-old, he transferred to Bayern Munich for $22 million, where he’s gone on to become an every-week starter for the best side in Germany, and one of the best left backs in Europe.

It’s not just Davies, though. 22-year-old striker Jonathan David is an elite prospect, and has already scored nine goals and three assists in 14 games for Lille this season. Tajon Buchanan, Cyle Larin, Liam Millar and Iké Ugbo round out a talented frontline that has plenty of depth and dynamism.

Toronto FC and CF Montréal have been crucial to Canada’s success. Nine of the players on the roster will likely come from the two premier Canadian clubs, including Montréal phenom Ismaël Koné, who seems destined for a transfer to Europe in January.

Manager John Herdman has established consistent principles of play for this side. Playing out of a 3-4-3, they’re well drilled defensively, happy to sit deep and hit on the counter. But they’re not just a low block, bunker-and-counter outfit. They’re comfortable in possession, with players in midfield and defense who are capable of playing through and press and finding their attackers in space.

They may not be favorites to advance from the group, but don’t sleep on Canada.

Key players

Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Kamal Miller (CF Montréal), Stephen Eustaquio (Porto), Jonathan David (Lille), Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş)

Predicted XI (3-4-1-2)

Milan Borjan; Kamal Miller, Stephen Vitória, Alistair Johnston; Sam Adekugbe, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Stephen Eustaquio, Tajon Buchanan; Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Junior Hoilett

Predicted group finish

4th.

It’s unfortunate that Canada have been drawn into such a difficult group. Despite their qualifying campaign, they’ll have to face off against elite talent that they simply can’t match. If they can get a point against either Croatia or Belgium and steal a win over Morocco, the picture will quickly change, but it’s a tough ask for a side that hasn’t been tested on the biggest stage.

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+25000


Morocco 🇲🇦(FIFA Ranking: 22)

How they got here

By being the best side in African qualifying. 

The Atlas Lions (another kick-ass nickname) won all six of their matches in the second round of CAF qualifying, scoring 20 and conceding just one. They then beat Congo 5-2 on aggregate in the final round to advance to the World Cup.

The outlook

Morocco fired their previous manager in August, and new boss Walid Regragui has had just two friendlies in charge before playing on the biggest stage in world football.

This side is dynamic and fast. Their lack of a real distributor in midfield may hamper them to an extent, but they’re incredibly consistent defensively and have enough talent out wide to fill multiple teams. In PSG’s Achraf Hakimi and Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui, they have one of the best fullback pairings at the World Cup. Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech is back in the squad after a premature international retirement due to conflicts with the prior manager.

The Atlas Lions will stretch the field and look to switch play quickly, hitting diagonals to their wingers and outnumbering opposing defenses with plenty of overlapping runs. Like Canada, they could take advantage of an aging Croatia side to turn some heads in Qatar.

Key players

Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint Germain), Romaīn Saiss (Beşiktaş), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla)

Predicted XI (4-3-3)

Yassine Bounou; Noussair Mazraoui, Romaī Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, Achraf Hakimi; Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Selim Amallah; Sofiane Boufal, Youssef En-Nesyri, Hakim Ziyech 

Predicted group finish

3rd.

Games are won and lost in midfield, and as good as Morocco are in wide areas, it’s hard to see them not getting torn up by Belgium and Croatia’s superior midfield. 

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+25000


Croatia 🇭🇷(FIFA Ranking: 12)

How they got here

By consistently and methodically breaking teams down with the ball.

Croatia topped UEFA Group H, taking 23 points from 10 games to automatically advance to the World Cup, scoring a respectable 21 goals in the process.

The outlook

Runners up at the 2018 World Cup, this is the last go for Croatia’s golden generation. Luka Modrić, the best midfielder of the last generation, is 37. He’s still playing at an unreal level for Real Madrid, but it’s hard to see him playing much longer at the international level. Back for his fourth World Cup, he leads a midfield three with Marcelo Brozović and Mateo Kovačić that may be the best trio at the tournament.

The real issue for The Blazers is the lack of an elite striker, and it’s been an issue since Mario Mandžukić retired. Ante Rebić, a makeshift striker but a regular starter at the last two tournaments, has been omitted from the squad after a  social media rant against the federation, managers and Croatian media. 

Andrej Kramarić will likely start in Qatar, and for a side that cross as much as Croatia do, he’s a fitting target forward. Bruno Petković scores less consistently, but he’ll be waiting in the wings if Kramarić has a slow start. Whatever happens, Croatia need to find a way to eliminate some of the burden from Modrić’s shoulders.

Key players

Luke Modrić (Real Madrid), Ivan Perišić (Tottenham), Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea)

Predicted XI (4-3-3)

Dominik Livaković; Borna Sosa, Josip Šutalo, Joško Gvardiol, Josip Juranović; Luka Modrić, Marcelo Brosović, Mateo Kovačić; Nikola Vlašić, Andrej Kramarić, Ivan Perišić

Predicted group finish

2nd.

This group is really tough to predict. Croatia could feasibly finish in any of the four spots, and while they have a few areas of weakness, they have enough quality and experience to at least advance from the group.

Odds to win World Cup (via BetMGM)

+4000


Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids.

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