The Teams’ Routes to the World Cup
The Croatians continue to punch above their weight for such a small country with a population of only 4 million people. During the past 12 months, they have only been beaten once 0 – 3, in a home game against Austria in a Nations League match. In this time, they have played 13 games resulting in 8 wins and 4 draws. Most notably, their last two performances have included two 1 – 0 away wins against Denmark and France. In September, Croatia will play two Nations League matches against Denmark and Austria. One week before the World Cup kicks off, they will play Saudi Arabia in Riyadh which will help their preparation and acclimatisation to the conditions they will face in Qatar.
The form of the Belgian team has not been where it wants to be during the past twelve months for a team ranked 2nd in the world rankings. Having played 13 games they have won 7, drawn 3 and lost 3 matches. Only beaten once in six games during 2022 they will have to improve if they are to go one better and reach the World Cup final this time round. Fixtures scheduled before the 2022 World Cup include Wales and Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League.
It is interesting to know that Croatia and Belgium have played each other 8 times. Nothing can separate the two teams as both teams have won 3 games each with 2 ending in draws. The last time Croatia met Belgium was in an international friendly in June 2021. Played in Brussels, Belgium won the game 1 – 0 with a goal from Romelu Lukaku.
Current Odds at mr.play
The 2018 Russian World Cup runners-up Croatia play Belgium who finished 3rd. With two teams that are difficult to beat, it will a tough call to decide which team will win this game. It may be such an evenly fought contest that the game may end in a draw. Here at mr.play you can place a bet on the outcome of the game and obtain some excellent odds. There are plenty of other betting markets to choose from including our popular choices that include both teams to score and half-time and full-time outcomes.
Team Overviews & Player Profiles
The Croatian midfield is one of its strongest facets with world-class players like Luca Modrić who will be orchestrating matters. Nikola Vlašić is another midfielder within the band that will contribute to the smooth operation on the field. A product of Hajduk Split he also played CSKA Moscow and is now contracted to West Ham. Making his debut for Croatia in 2017 he is an attacking midfielder with 39 international caps and 7 goals. Vlašić’s first major tournament was Euro 2020 where he contributed to Croatia reaching the round of 16, only to be eliminated by Spain 3 – 5 after extra time.
An important experienced and attacking outlet for Croatia will be Ivan Perišić. He also brings versatility to the squad playing mainly as a winger but also being able to play as an attacking midfielder, second striker or wing-back. He has recently signed for Tottenham Hotspur but played over 200 games for Inter Milan, winning Serie A in 2020/2021. Playing for his national team he was the first player to score a goal for Croatia in a World Cup final in 2018 when they finished runners-up. Two more international caps will make him the 3rd most capped Croatian of all time with 115, above Stipe Pletikosa. An additional 2 international goals will make him the 2nd highest goal-scorer for his country, taking him ahead of Mario Mandžukić with 34 goals.
With the Croatians capable of scoring goals, the Belgians will also have to take the chances that fall their way. Romelu Lukaku is the all-time leading goal-scorer for Belgium having scored 68 goals in total. He has a large frame at 6ft 3in (191cm) and with his left foot, aerial ability, physical presence and hold-up play he can bring midfielders and attacking players like De Bruyne and Hazard into play. He has been prolific in professional club football with Everton making 110 appearances and scoring 53 goals and he now plays for Inter Milan where he has racked up 73 appearances scoring 48 goals. In 2020/2021 Lukaku won the Serie A with Inter Milan and won the Serie A footballer of the year. In 2020 he was IFFHS World’s Best International Goal-scorer and in 2020/2021 the UEFA Nations League top scorer. In 2018 he was part of the Belgian squad that finished 3rd in the World Cup and with potential appearances in the 2022 World Cup, he can become the 5th most capped Belgian player taking over the great Dries Mertens.
The Belgians are not going to have it all their way against the 2018 World Cup runners-up. Their defence will need to be alert at all times and Thibaut Courtois will surely be called into action. He is considered a ‘complete goalkeeper’ with excellent mentally, great communication with his defence, composure and great shot-stopping. At 6ft 7in (200cm) he also has a commanding presence in the box when dealing with crosses. In club football, he has clocked up over 100 appearances for Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and his current employer, Real Madrid. He may also reach 100 international caps at the 2020 World Cup having played in Euro 2016 and 2020 as well as World Cup 2014 and 2018. In the 2018 World Cup, he was awarded the Golden Glove for being the best goalkeeper in the tournament when Belgium finished in third place. With such height and presence at both ends of the pitch, maybe this will be the undoing of Croatia?
A Thrilling Match with True Quality
This is the pick of the Group F fixtures with the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia playing the 2018 third-placed team Belgium. Will Croatia shine again in Qatar and continue to amaze, or will the highly fancied Belgium team full of superstars go one better and reach the final? The round of 16 may await both teams if they win both their opening fixtures and they can expect to play Japan, Spain, Germany or Costa Rica.