The countdown to the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar continues to tick down with the host nation set to square off against Ecuador on Nov. 20.
As that day nears, Canada Sports Betting has been studying the field, outlining each group, and diving into some of the most inviting of bet365’s odds. Once the competition begins, keep an eye out for match day preview articles that will highlight each specific game scheduled for the following day.
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Group F Team Previews
For the Red Devils Qatar 2022 may well be the last chance for a golden generation to prove their mettle.
Once European also-rans, Belgium’s expectations were altered in 2014 when a young side topped its group unbeaten and progressed through the Round of 16 before bowing out at the quarterfinal stage to eventual finalists Argentina.
At the next big tournament, the 2016 UEFA European Championships, Belgium again advanced out of its group and through the first knockout round before falling again at the quarterfinals. In Russia 2018, the nation nearly reached the pinnacle, defeating Japan and Brazil en route to a bronze finish – it beat England 2-0 in the third-place playoff – after falling to eventual champions France in the semifinals. A similar tale played out in Euro 2020 when Belgium finished atop its group, beat a team or two in the knockout round – Portugal in the Round of 16 – before failing to take that next step when it mattered against eventual champions Italy, which defeated Belgium come the quarterfinals.
That has been the knock on a group of whom much was expected. Some of that generation has since retired, while others are now looking their age. The next wave of talent is beginning to stake its claim, and head coach Roberto Martinez, who has guided the program since 2016, could be looking at this as one final shot at glory.
Having breezed unbeaten through qualifying, Belgium lost twice to the Netherlands in the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, denying it a spot in the Finals. An injury to striker Romelu Lukaka in the buildup to the tournament has his availability in question – he was named to the squad, but is unlikely to be ready for the opening match, while captain Eden Hazard, himself often struggling for fitness, has seen limited action with his club side Real Madrid.
Player to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne
With questions looming over two of its stars, De Bruyne, the top assist maker and chance creator in the English Premier League with Manchester City, will be expected to shoulder a lot for his team in the opening stages.
Perhaps the brightest star of the generation, his vision and passing remains unmatched. The 31-year-old midfielder will be playing in his third World Cup and is nearing the century mark of appearances for his country.
Like Belgium, Qatar 2022 has the feel of a last-chance saloon for some of the legendary members of this squad.
Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren, and Domagoj Vida, all on the wrong side of 30, have been called into what could be the final major tournament of their international careers.
Since its debut on the world stage as an independent nation at the 1996 Euros, Croatia has missed out on just two major tournaments – one World Cup and one Euro.
A third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup in France was the nation’s pinnacle achievement, but it went one step further under head coach Zlatko Dalic at Russia 2018, carving a path through Denmark, Russia, and England in the knockout phase before losing the final, 4-2, to France to finish as runners-up. Dalic will again lead the side in Qatar and look to use that disappointment to spur them on to greater heights.
After a disappointing exit from UEFA Euro 2020 in the Round of 16, the Croatians reached the finals of the UEFA Nations League, from a group that featured both France and Denmark.
Unlike Belgium, Croatia, however, has already begun the process of generational change. Nevermind that two-thirds of that sumptuous midfield trio – Marcelo Brozovic (29) of Inter Milan and Mateo Kovacic (28) of Chelsea FC – are still in the prime of their careers.
Player to Watch: Luka Modric
Captain and Croatia’s most-capped player of all-time with an astonishing 154 appearances, the 37-year-old midfielder, though small in stature, is one of the giants of the game having won virtually everything a player could win both with his club and individually.
Though time is undefeated, the Real Madrid maestro has not lost one iota of the intelligence that has served him well throughout his career. As goes Modric, so goes Croatia.
The Atlas Lions arrive in Qatar eager to stamp their imprint on the first World Cup to be held in the Arabic-speaking world.
Playing in its sixth World Cup, the North African side will be aiming to get out of the group for just the second time, after doing so at 1986 in Mexico. Its prospects of doing so, based on its performance at Russia 2018 where the team disappointingly finished at the bottom of a group that featured Spain, Portugal, and Iran look similarly difficult in a tough group.
A late coaching change in August, with Walid Regragui replacing Vahid Halihodzic, who led the side through qualifying, has provided a shake-up and seen the reintegration of mercurial Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech, who was previously frozen out, but what that will mean remains uncertain.
Morocco won all six of its matches in the second round of CAF Qualification and then secured its spot with a 5-2 aggregate victory over DR Congo. A strong run at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, played earlier this year, saw Morocco top its group and advance through the first knockout round before falling to Egypt after extra time in the quarterfinals. But the knock on Morocco has been that while it impresses in qualification, the squad struggles to translate that to results on the biggest stages.
Player to Watch: Achraf Hakimi
Born in Madrid to Moroccan parents – Morocco will feature the most players of any side born in another country – the 24-year-old defender has quickly made a name for himself as one of the premier attacking full-backs in the world. Look for his marauding runs up the right flank in Qatar.
A product of the Real Madrid academy system, Hakimi has featured for four massive clubs since making his professional debut in 2016: Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain, winning league titles at Inter and PSG over the past two seasons.
Making its triumphant return to the World Cup after a 36-year absence, Canada emerged from CONCACAF Qualification for 2022 at the top of the standings, ahead of both Mexico and the USA.
John Herdman, who made the switch from a successful stint with the women’s team to the men’s squad in 2018, led his side the long way to Qatar, playing 20 matches to earn a berth while outscoring opponents 54-8.
Progressively better showings at the last two CONCACAF Gold Cups – reaching the quarterfinals in 2019 and the semifinals in 2021 before bowing out to Haiti and Mexico, respectively – as well as a strong showing in the debut edition of the CONCACAF Nations League – missing out on the Nations League A Finals by only goal-difference against the USA – set the table for a return to the World Cup.
Having navigated the often uncertain wiles of the early rounds in CONCACAF, Canada went unbeaten through the first 11 games of the Octogon, gradually picking up steam with famous draws away to the United States and Mexico before beating both on home turf later in the process.
Some uncertainty has crept in since those heady days. Canada lost two of its final three matches – away to Costa Rica and Panama – and cancelled friendlies against Iran and Panama with internal strife, and saw mixed results in the Nations League this past June, defeating Curacao at home and falling away to Honduras. But a strong showing in a recent 2-0 friendly defeat against Uruguay, the first non-North American opponent Canada has faced since early 2020, provided a measure of what awaits.
At the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Canada came home without a point and did not even score a goal. Though there are questions about the defence at this level, Canada likely won’t be kept off the scoresheet with a raft of goal-scoring threats in Lille’s Jonathan David and Club Brugge duo Tajon Buchanan and Cyle Larin, who topped the scoring charts in qualification.
Player to Watch: Alphonso Davies
The only true world-class star in the squad, though the aforementioned David and Porto’s Stephan Eustaquio are quickly making names for themselves, the Bayern Munich left-back will be looked to to provide what only he can: star power.
Though Canada progressed through much of qualification without Davies, his pace, trickery, and the danger he provides will worry opponents and thus make room for his teammates to thrive. Herdman has often fielded Davies further up field than he features for his club side.
Still just 22 years old, Davies has already won four league titles, five domestic cups, a UEFA Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup, and a FIFA Club World Cup, not to mention innumerable individual recognitions.
Group F Winner Odds
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With Belgium listed as a heavy favourite to top the group (-163), the absence of Lukaku and the uncertainty around Hazard’s match fitness, could open the door for Croatia to take first place (+225).
Should either of those European sides stumble, either Morocco (+200) or Canada (+300) could leap into those top two places to advance out of the group.
However, if all goes as expected in the group, it will be a battle between Morocco and Canada to finish bottom of Group F (+120 and +110, respectively).
Group F World Cup Winner Odds
Though dark horses compared to some of the tournament favourites, like Brazil, Argentina, and France, both Belgium (+1600) and Croatia (+5000) have the talent to leave Qatar with the FIFA World Cup trophy in tow.
Group F Prop Betting Odds
Should they emerge from Group F, both Belgium and Croatia could be value picks to reach the various deeper stages of the competition. “To Reach Final” +700 and +1600, respectively; to “Reach Semi-Final” +274 and +700, though their section of the bracket will lead through Spain, Germany, and Brazil.
In the individual categories, Belgium’s De Bruyne, though more of a provider, is a candidate in the “Top Goalscorer” category (+5000) – he is the favourite for “Most Assists” (+600). And should the Belgians go far, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is a strong pick for the “Golden Glove” (+500).
Both De Bruyne (+1400) and Croatia’s Modric (+6600) are candidates for the “Golden Ball,” awarded to the player of the tournament.
Group F Soccer Betting Final Thoughts
With two clear favourites in Group F, it is expected that both Belgium and Croatia will emerge, though Morocco and Canada will not go down without a fight. Barring an upset at the group stage, the real question is just how far either Belgium or Croatia can go.