Croatia and Belgium are set to square off in a ‘winner takes all’ 2022 World Cup Group F showdown on Thursday at 3.00 pm.
A crunch meeting between the two medalists from the 2018 World Cup in a nerve-shredding Group F finale will determine who will progress from this exciting group.
In a Qatar showpiece full of surprises and upsets, the upcoming match between the 2018 World Cup runners-up and FIFA’s #2-ranked nation promises to offer more twists and turns.
Zlatko Dalic’s team started their 2022 World Cup journey on the back foot, playing out a scoreless draw with Morocco in their opener before pulling off a jaw-dropping comeback to dismantle Canada 4-1 last time out.
Inspired by Luka Modric’s classy performance in the engine room and Andrej Kramaric’s double, the Blazers have put themselves in a position to pursue a draw against Belgium.
And while a point will do for Croatia, Roberto Martinez’s men must go all-out in search of three points if they want to avoid dropping out of a World Cup already in the group stage for the first time since 1998.
De Rode Duivels were fortunate to squeeze past Canada 1-0 on the opening matchday but weren’t as lucky against the Moroccans, who thrashed them 2-0 in round two.
Croatia’s rampant showing against Canada marked only the second instance at a World Cup where they’ve scored four goals, last managing that feat against Cameroon in 2014.
However, it was also the Blazers’ fourth victory in their last five outings in the World Cup group stages (D1), as many triumphs as they had their first 12 such matches combined (W4, D2, L6).
Even if they concede first, Croatia should have enough character to bounce back, as witnessed by the eye-catching fact that they’ve not lost any of their last four World Cup games when falling behind (W2, D2).
Belgium boss Martinez may have to force Romelu Lukaku to make his first start for a club or country since August after De Rode Duivels registered a dismal conversion rate of only 5% in Qatar (1/19).
Kevin De Bruyne cannot do it all on his own, with the Manchester City playmaker underperforming in Belgium’s first defeat in their last 14 matches in the World Cup group stage against Morocco (W8, D5).
He will have to do much better if the Belgians are to avoid losing back-to-back games in the World Cup group phase for the first time since 1986, which would condemn them to an early exit.
Croatia vs Belgium Head-to-Head
While all recent signs point to Belgium’s collapse, the H2H stakes firmly back them for success. They’ve won their last two H2H meetings, with Lukaku scoring all three goals in that span.
On top of that, they’ve conceded one goal or fewer seven times in their eight all-time encounters against the Croats. So it’s not all lost for under-fire Martinez yet.
Croatia vs Belgium Potential Line-ups
Croatia (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Andrej Kramaric, Marko Livaja, Ivan Perisic.
Belgium (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Timothy Castagne; Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel, Leandro Trossard; Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard; Michy Batshuayi.
Croatia vs Belgium Prediction
Despite Belgium’s underwhelming showings in Qatar, the talent in their squad is bursting at the seams, and it’s hard to write them off.
But if Croatia’s match against Canada was a sign of things to come, De Bruyne could return to the Etihad Stadium earlier than expected.
We back Dalic’s team to send De Rode Duivels packing.
Croatia 2-1 Belgium
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