Croatia v Belgium: World Cup 2022 – live | World Cup 2022

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Key events

Belgium’s tactics Wait, hang on. There are some suggestions that Belgium will revert to a back three, but with Timothy Castagne rather than Leander Dendoncker in the defence.

Belgium (possible 3-4-3) Courtois; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne; Meunier, Dendoncker, Witsel, Carrasco; De Bruyne, Mertens, Trossard

Canada v Morocco

This game is inextricably linked with events at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha. You can follow that one with Our Baz.

“Following the release of the line-ups, is the Bobby Martinez’s ‘Please, please give me a pay-off’ plea?” asks Ryan Grimward.

I quite like the team he’s picked. Eden Hazard is a shadow of the player who was in the Team of the Tournament at the last World Cup, and Trossard’s selection is overdue.

Team news: Eden Hazard dropped

Croatia are unchanged; Belgium are not. Roberto Martinez has made four changes to the side that lost to Morocco on Sunday. The Hazard brothers and Michy Batshuayi are dropped; Amadou Onana is suspended. In come Dries Mertens, Yannick Carrasco, Leander Dendoncker and Brighton’s Leandro Trossard. Kevin De Bruyne replaces Eden Hazard as captain.

The inclusion of Dendoncker means Belgium could line up with a back three or a back four. I suspect it’s 4-2-3-1 with Dries Mertens as a false nine, but as Roberto Martinez won’t answer my DMs, I can’t speak with any authority.

Croatia (4-3-3) Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic.
Substitutes: Grbic, Ivusic, Stanisic, Erlic, Majer, Vlasic, Pasalic, Petkovic, Budimir, Orsic, Vida, Sutalo, Sucic, Jakic.

Belgium (possible 4-2-3-1) Courtois; Meunier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne; Dendoncker, Witsel; Carrasco, De Bruyne, Trossard; Mertens.
Substitutes: Mignolet, Casteels, Theate, Faes, Tielemans, Lukaku, Batshuayi, T Hazard, E Hazard, Doku, Vanaken, De Ketelaere, Openda, Debast.

The story so far

Croatia drew 0-0 with Morocco and then put Canada over their knee, coming from behind to win 4-1.

Belgium followed a slightly unconvincing 1-0 win over Canada with an exceedingly unconvincing 2-0 defeat to Morocco on Sunday, after which the players reportedly had a row over which of them was farthest down the hill.

I say ‘reportedly’, because Roberto Martinez has borrowed Donald Trump’s favourite phrase, and I don’t mean Make Belgium Great Again.

Permutations corner

This has been culled unashamedly from Martin Belam’s excellent guide, which is linked below. Also, if it’s wrong, blame him*.

Croatia A draw is enough for Croatia to qualify. They may still qualify if they lose, if Canada beat Morocco, depending on the margins of the respective victories.

Belgium Belgium need to win to be assured qualification. A draw may be enough, but only if Canada beat Morocco, and even then it will come down to goal difference.

* It’s not

Preamble

The problem with a golden generation is that one day it turns into base metal. In a few hours’ time, either Croatia or Belgium – both on the podium at the last World Cup – will be lamenting the end of an era. Barring a defeat for Morocco against Canada, one of these two teams will be going home.

Belgium are the most imperilled. They need to win to be sure of qualifying for the last 16, whereas a draw is enough for Croatia. There is a way Belgium could go through with a draw, or Croatia with a defeat, but we’ll come to that in permutations corner.

These are two of the oldest teams in the competition, and some of these legendary footballers are about to appear in a World Cup game for the final time: Kevin De Bruyne, Luka Modric, Romelu Lukaku, Ivan Perisic, Eden Hazard, Marcelo Brozovic, Toby Alderweireld, Dejan Lovren.

And yet. While one of these teams will almost certainly be apologising earnestly to the nation after the final whistle, if either of them top the group they have the chance to go a long way in the tournament. The winners of Group F shouldn’t meet Brazil, Spain, France, Argentina or England – the five favourites for the tournament – until at least the semi-final stage.

Two golden generations duking it out, with everything at stake. As final group games go, this is a humglistener.

Kick off 3pm GMT, 6pm in Al Rayyan, 4pm in Brussels and Zagreb.

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