What is on the agenda in Qatar for Morocco vs Croatia, Germany vs Japan, Spain vs Costa Rica and Belgium vs Canada?
Four matches are scheduled for day four – Wednesday 23 November – of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Morocco v Croatia (Group F): 1pm (10:00 GMT), Al Bayt Stadium
Germany-Japan (Group E): 4pm (13:00 GMT), Khalifa International Stadium
Spain-Costa Rica (Group E): 19:00 (16:00 GMT), Al Thumama Stadium
Belgium-Canada (Group F): 22:00 (19:00 GMT), Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium
What to expect:
Morocco vs Croatia
- Croatia enter the 2022 World Cup in superb form, having recently finished first in their UEFA Nations League group which included France, Denmark and Austria and advancing after a winning streak against all three sides in European competition.
- However, Jordan coach Adnan Hamad said Morocco could be the team to watch out for at the World Cup as the North African side are capable of big upsets.
- “The Moroccan team is considered to be the best Arab team playing at the World Cup in Qatar. It has 20 professional players from the major European leagues. In qualifying, it passed with flying colors and has a great chance to get out of the group,” Hamad said in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.
Players to watch:
- Morocco’s superstar right-back Achraf Hakimi should be watched for his consistency for national team and club performances at Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. Hakimi’s attacks from the flanks and precise crosses will be key for the Moroccan strikers’ attacks.
- Luka Modric is seen as crucial to Croatia’s hopes of tournament success. The 37-year-old, who captains the side and directs their attacking play from central midfield, is widely admired and received the prestigious Ballon d’Or, the sport’s highest individual award, in 2018.
Germany vs Japan
- Germany are not among the absolute favorites to win the 2022 World Cup this time around, but as the saying goes, the German side can never be ruled out.
- Despite being found in a difficult group with Costa Rica, Japan and Spain, the Germans are expected to reach the round of 16 and maybe even reach the semis.
- Japan tends to beat expectations.
- At the 2018 World Cup, Japan advanced to the round of 16 despite being placed in a group with strong opponents such as Poland, Senegal and Colombia.
- The Japanese team has several players in European leagues and their squad for the 2022 World Cup is said to be as good as ever in terms of tech.
Players to watch:
- Daichi Kamada is an attacking midfielder by trade who is considered the engine of the Japanese side and is set to be their most important player at the World Cup.
- He is also said to have a winning mentality after helping Eintracht Frankfurt win the Europa League in May 2022.
- Germany have a solid line-up with players like Ilkay Gündogan, Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala in midfield, while the front line with strikers Mario Götze, Kai Havertz and Serge Gnabry are all said to be capable of scoring.
Spain vs Costa Rica
- Spain may not be the absolute favorites to win in Qatar but they should be hard to beat.
- Spain has participated in every World Cup since 1978. Only five teams have better overall appearance records – Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Mexico.
- Qatar 2022 is the Spanish side’s 16th appearance since the inaugural competition in Uruguay in 1930.
- Costa Rica, or “Los Ticos,” has had an impressive run at the World Cup since debuting in 1990.
- The Central American team achieved their best result at the 2014 World Cup when they reached the quarter-finals, only to be eliminated by the Netherlands on penalties.
- However, Los Ticos could find it difficult to progress through the group stage. They are placed in Group E, known as the Group of Death, along with former champions Spain and Germany, as well as Asian powerhouse Japan.
Players to watch:
- Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell, a forward with 118 games and 25 goals under his belt, is likely to lead the attack along with 22-year-old rising star Anthony Contreras. Captain Bryan Ruiz and Los Ticos record international Celso Borges will direct the show from midfield.
- Costa Rica has a strong defense with players like Juan Pablo Vargas and Oscar Duarte. Keylor Navas was instrumental in his side’s qualification for the tournament as he kept New Zealand in check during the play-offs.
- Despite Qatar being his first World Cup season, Spain’s hopes are likely to rest on Pedro González López, better known as Pedri, who turns 20 in November.
- Described as one of the most promising youngsters in world football, the diminutive central midfielder has already proven his skills on the international stage and has garnered critical acclaim.
- As Al Jazeera’s David Childs writes, Spain are starting the World Cup confidently with seven wins and two draws in their last 10 games.
Belgium vs Canada
- Canada have competed in only one other World Cup, the 1986 tournament in Mexico, and the team is expected to struggle to make it from a difficult starting group that includes Croatia and Belgium.
- Still, the team played a strong qualifying campaign that has raised expectations that the Canadians could have a trick or two and a few surprises up their sleeves.
- For example, they won eight games out of 14 in their qualifying group and delivered surprise victories against the USA and Mexico.
- Four years ago, the Belgian team delighted fans with memorable victories over Japan and Brazil, which sent them through to the semi-finals and eventual third place overall – their best result at a World Cup to date.
- This time, however, there are doubts on the Belgian side.
- Their 2022 World Cup group will challenge Belgium as they take on Canada, African powerhouse Morocco and Croatia – runners-up at the last World Cup.
- Can they repeat the exploits of their last World Cup appearance is the question?
Players to watch:
- All eyes will be on 22-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies as his World Cup campaign kicks off.
- Davies plays as a left-back for Germany’s Bayern Munich and is known for his speed, dribbling and shooting. He is considered one of the best players in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) country group.
- Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne are expected to shoulder the burden of succeeding for Belgium at the tournament, while Charles De Ketelaere is the young gun to watch out for.
- Check out the full 2022 World Cup schedule here and be sure to check out Al Jazeera’s AI Match Prediction to see how your team is likely to fare in Qatar.