Football

World Cup 2022: Group F leaders Croatia cannot relax against sub-par Belgium

The Red Devils suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Morocco but it does not mean Croatia can relax against the number 2 ranked FIFA team. 

Croatia

World Cup Round of 16 places are still up for grabs in Group B. A point for Morocco against Canada will ensure their progress to the knockout rounds. A similar result will allow Croatia to extend their stay in Qatar while Belgium needs a win for their continuation in the quadrennial event. 

In the situation that Morocco tastes defeat against Canada, circumstances for the Vatreni will not change. Belgium can progress depending on their goal difference but will look towards the three points on offer to cover all their bases.

Irrespective of the different scenarios, with two defeats in their two outings, Canada’s return flights have been booked. The Maple Leafs are playing for honour while the other three participants are involved in a game of chess. 

All three of Belgium, Croatia and Morocco are masters of their own destinies. The Vatreni manager, Zlatko Dalic, is aware of the situation and warned his players about the implications of a poor performance at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium. 

Zlatko wants the Russia 2018 finalists to need to go into the meeting with a positive mindset and not settle for anything less than a win against Kevin de Bruyne and co. 

“We took a small step here, but we are far from our ultimate goal,” Dalic said in a news conference. “We must not accept the possibility of taking only one point from the match with Belgium. We should not be carried away by euphoria.”

Humbled Canada needs to be respected

Croatia were in trouble against Canada after going a goal down in only the second minute. However, Alphonso Davies’s effort prompted an impressive turnaround by the Vatreni. 

Andrej Kramaric equalized nine minutes before halftime while Marko Livaja gave them the lead in the penultimate minute of the first half. The Croatians would continue to pressure their rivals, Kramaric getting on the scoreboard again after the break while Lovro Majer made the most of the opportunity in injury time. 

Dalic praised the Canadian team’s spirit who were appearing in the World Cup for the first time since 1986. He hailed them for their efforts on the pitch, which gave the Russia 2018’s finalists a tough time. 

“We played an extraordinary Canada, they were full of energy,” Dalic said. “They scored a goal in the first minutes that gave them more energy and power, but we managed to stabilize ourselves.”

Last dance for Modric and co.

Qatar 2022 signifies a changing of the guard for Croatia. It will be the last time that the likes of Dejan Lovern, Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric, and Luka Modric will be representing the Vatreni. 

The footballing conveyor belt has not stopped producing exciting talents and there are ready-made replacements in their ranks. 

Gvardiol is stepping up to be their anchor in defence, while Duje Ćaleta-Car also biding his time for an opportunity. Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic are solidifying themselves as midfield lynchpins and completing the takeover once the great Modric bids farewell. 

It is in the attack that the Croatian fans are most worried. They do not have readymade replacements for Perisic or Kramaric, who are 33 and 31, respectively. Josip Brekalo and Petar Musa can step up if given the opportunity but do not have enough experience at the highest level. 

About the author

Owais Khan

Profiling the beautiful game for over a decade, Awais is a business analyst turned sports writer. He has covered football in the maidans of Pakistan and has transitioned to watching 1860 Munich in 3. Liga.