What is in store for Morocco vs Croatia, Germany vs Japan, Spain vs Costa Rica, and Belgium vs Canada in Qatar?
Four games are scheduled on day four — Wednesday, November 23 — of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Morocco vs Croatia (Group F): 1pm (10:00 GMT), Al Bayt Stadium
Germany vs Japan (Group E): 4pm (13:00 GMT), Khalifa International Stadium
Spain vs Costa Rica (Group E): 7pm (16:00 GMT), Al Thumama Stadium
Belgium vs Canada (Group F): 10pm (19:00 GMT), Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
What to expect:
Morocco vs Croatia
- Croatia are entering this World Cup 2022 tournament in excellent shape, having recently come out tops in their UEFA Nations League group, which included France, Denmark and Austria, and following a run of victories against all three sides in the European competition.
- However, Jordan’s coach Adnan Hamad said that Morocco could be the team to watch at the World Cup as the North African team was capable of great surprises.
- “The Moroccan team is considered the best Arab team playing in the Qatar World Cup. It has 20 professional players from major European leagues. In the qualifiers, it passed with flying colours and has a major chance of progressing from the group,” Hamad told Al Jazeera in a recent interview.
Players to watch:
- Morocco’s superstar right-back Achraf Hakimi is one to watch based on his consistency for the national team and his club performances with Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain. Hakimi’s charges down the flanks and pinpoint crosses will be key for attacks by Morocco’s strikers.
- Luka Modric is considered critical to Croatia’s hopes of success in the tournament. Captaining the side and engineering its attacking play from central midfield, the 37-year-old is hugely admired and was awarded the prestigious Ballon d’Or in 2018, the highest individual accolade in the sport.
Germany vs Japan
- Germany are not among the outright favourites to win the World Cup 2022 this time around, but, as it is said, the German side can never be discounted.
- Though considered to be in a tricky group, which includes Costa Rica, Japan and Spain, the Germans are expected to progress to the round of 16 and maybe even reach the semi-finals.
- Japan tends to exceed expectations.
- At the 2018 World Cup, the Japanese side advanced to the round of 16, despite being placed in a group with tough opponents such as Poland, Senegal and Colombia.
- The Japan side have several players in European leagues and their World Cup 2022 squad is said to be as good as it has ever been when it comes to technical qualities.
Players to watch:
- Daichi Kamada is an attacking midfielder by trade who is said to be the engine of the Japanese team and will arguably be their most important player in the World Cup.
- He is also said to have a winning mentality, having helped Eintracht Frankfurt win the Europa League in May 2022.
- Germany have a solid lineup with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala in midfield, while the front line with forwards Mario Gotze, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry are all said to be capable of putting away goals.
Spain vs Costa Rica
- Spain may not be the absolute favourites to win in Qatar, but they are likely to be difficult to beat.
- Spain have competed at every World Cup since 1978. Only five teams have better overall appearance records — Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Mexico.
- Qatar 2022 marks the Spanish side’s 16th appearance since the inaugural competition took place in Uruguay in 1930.
- Costa Rica, or “Los Ticos”, have had an impressive run at the World Cup tournament since making their debut in 1990.
- The Central American team’s best finish was at the 2014 World Cup when they reached the quarter-finals, only to be knocked out in penalties by the Netherlands.
- However, Los Ticos may find it challenging to make it past the group stage. They are placed in Group E, the so-called group of death, along with former champions Spain and Germany, and Asian powerhouse Japan.
Players to watch:
- Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell, a forward with 118 games and 25 goals to his name, is likely to lead the attack along with 22-year-old rising star Anthony Contreras. Captain Bryan Ruiz and Los Ticos’s most capped player Celso Borges will run the show from the midfield.
- Costa Rica boast a strong defence with the likes of Juan Pablo Vargas and Oscar Duarte. Keylor Navas was crucial in ensuring his side’s qualification for the tournament when he kept New Zealand at bay during the playoff.
- Despite Qatar being his first World Cup campaign, Spanish hopes will likely rest on Pedro González López, better known as Pedri, who turns 20 in November.
- Described as one of world football’s most promising youngsters, the diminutive central midfielder has already established his abilities on the international stage and attracted serious acclaim as a result.
- As Al Jazeera’s David Childs writes, with seven wins and two draws in their last 10 games, Spain is starting the World Cup on a confident footing.
Belgium vs Canada
- Canada has participated in only one other World Cup, the 1986 tournament in Mexico, and the team is expected to struggle to make it out of a difficult starting group that includes Croatia and Belgium.
- Yet, the team played a strong qualifying campaign that has raised expectations that the Canadians may have a trick or two up their sleeves and some surprises.
- For example, in their qualifying group, they won eight of 14 games and delivered surprise wins over the United States and Mexico.
- Four years ago, the Belgian team wowed fans with memorable victories over Japan and Brazil, which sent them into the semis and ultimately to finish third overall — their best-ever result in a World Cup campaign.
- But there are doubts about the Belgian side this time around.
- Their World Cup 2022 group is going to be challenging for Belgium as they face off against Canada, the African powerhouse Morocco, and Croatia — runners-up in the last World Cup.
- Can they repeat the heroics of their last World Cup appearance is the question?
Players to watch:
- All eyes will be on Canada’s Alphonso Davies, 22, when the whistle blows on their World Cup campaign.
- Playing left wing-back for Germany’s Bayern Munich, Davies is known for his speed, dribbling and shooting. He is regarded as among the finest players in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) grouping of countries.
- Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne are expected to carry the burden of achieving success in the tournament for Belgium, while Charles De Ketelaere is the young gun to watch.
- View the full 2022 World Cup schedule here and be sure to visit Al Jazeera’s AI match predictor to see how your team is projected to perform in Qatar.