World Cup 2022 preview: Group F

We take a closer look at Group F, featuring Kevin De Bruyne's Belgium, 2018 finalists Croatia, newcomers Canada and North Africans Morocco.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 23 November 2022 - 9.43am
Kevin De Bruyne

Group F, at first glance, looks to be split between experienced World Cup campaigners in Belgium and Croatia and unknown quantities in Morocco and Canada.

This is a group that could throw up some surprises, though Belgium will expect to progress relatively comfortably.

Croatia are unlikely to be as strong as they were in 2018, when defeat to France in Moscow denied them a first World Cup title, so Morocco will have aspirations to challenge them.

Canada, in just their second World Cup, might see this as something of a free hit, but the Maple Leafs shouldn't be underestimated.

Here's how each team reached the finals, as well as insight into their best players, manager and strengths and weaknesses.

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Group F

Belgium

Belgium

FIFA ranking: 2nd

Squad's top scorer: Romelu Lukaku - 68 goals / 102 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 1st in Group E (UEFA)

Best World Cup finish: Fourth place (1986)

Route to qualification:

Belgium gained 20 points from eight games to progress as group winners, although draws in the Czech Republic and Wales displayed chinks in their armour. 

Star man:

It's hard to look past Kevin De Bruyne. The 31-year-old is still playing unbelievably for Manchester City and is a chance-creating machine for his country as well despite Erling Haaland not being Belgian. 

Manager:

Robert Martinez is one of the longest-serving managers at this tournament, having taken the reins in 2016, and after exits to France and Italy in the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 respectively, the former Wigan and Everton boss will know that his best chance of earning silverware for the Red Devils is now. 

Strengths:

The quality of De Bruyne twinned with Eden Hazard (despite his recent fitness issues) is hard to ignore, while Youri Tielemans arrives in Qatar having played brilliantly in recent weeks for Leicester. Wing-backs Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier are also a significant threat. 

Weaknesses:

In the nine games they've played in the last year, only twice have Belgium kept a clean sheet - against Poland and Burkina Faso. They are also big question marks around the fitness of Romelu Lukaku, who is still not ready to train with the team just eight days before their opener against Canada. 

Eden Hazard - Belgium

Canada

Canada

FIFA ranking: 41st

Squad's top scorer: Cyle Larin - 25 goals / 54 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 1st in third-round group (CONCACAF)

Best World Cup finish: Group stage (1986)

Route to qualification:

Somewhat surprisingly, Canada topped the CONCACAF group under John Herdman, finishing above the more highly fancied Mexico and the USA despite having to negotiate to previous qualifying rounds, unlike their two heavyweight opponents. 

Star man:

Alphonso Davies has been a regular in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich since 2019 despite still being just 22. He offers defensive solidity, electric pace and excellent dribbling ability, as well as having an eye for a pass. 

Manager:

Herdman, an Englishman born in Consett, County Durham, has been in charge since 2018 and is already somewhat of a hero in his adopted homeland after taking Les Rouges to their first men's World Cup in 36 years. The team also reached the semi-finals of last year's Gold Cup, losing to Mexico.

Strengths:

Jonathan David is likely to prove dangerous in front of goal after a superb start to the season at Lille under Paulo Fonseca, while Stephen Eustaquio has been a key element in Porto's progression to the Champions League knockout phase.

Weaknesses:

The fact that none of this team has previously played at a World Cup may count against them, while losses to Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica in 2022 underline the step up required to compete with the elite in world football.

Jonathan David - Canada

Morocco

Morocco

FIFA ranking: 22nd

Squad's top scorer: Hakim Ziyech - 17 goals / 42 apps

World Cup qualifying position: Third round play-off winners against DR Congo (CAF)

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (1986)

Route to qualification:

Morocco took advantage of a kind group to win six from six games before beating the Democratic Republic of Congo 5-2 in a two-legged play-off to reach the World Cup.

Star man:

Achraf Hakimi has excellent vision and a great range of passing, is phenomenally quick and clean in the tackle. At the age of 24, he has played for Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter and now Paris Saint-Germain.

Manager:

Walid Regragui was made head coach in August, with Vahid Halilhodzic sacked following a disagreement with the country's football federation after guiding to the team to Qatar. The appointment of Regragui means Hakim Ziyech is back in the fold after the Chelsea winger fell out with Halilhodzic. 

Strengths:

A front three of Ziyech, former Southampton attacker Sofiane Boufal and Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri will be a thorn in the side of any team in this group. 

Weaknesses:

Although the Atlas Lions acquitted themselves well in Russia four years ago, they came away with no points and the squad hasn't changed massively in that time. 

Hakim Ziyech - Morocco

Croatia

Croatia

FIFA ranking: 12th

Squad's top scorer: Ivan Perisic - 32 goals / 116 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 1st in Group H (UEFA)

Best World Cup finish: Runners-up (2018)

Route to qualification:

The 2018 finalists topped their qualifying group, with their sole defeat coming in Slovenia. 

Star man:

Despite being 37, Luka Modric is still running games ahead of what will be his last tournament, and he showed in Real Madrid's triumphant Champions League campaign last season that he has still has the stamina to go with the guile. 

Manager:

Zlatko Dalic has a lot to live up to after running France close in Russia four years ago, but the signs are positive that they can go deep into the 2022 tournament, having recent qualified for the Nations League finals to be held next year. 

Strengths:

A possession-based style has contributed hugely to the team's strong results, while Dalic has the luxury of choosing between Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Mario Pasalic for the two spots alongside Modric. 

Weaknesses:

They are no hugely prolific strikers in the team, while 33-year-old Dejan Lovren is a potential weak link alongside the immensely promising Josko Gvardiol. 

Josko Gvardiol - Croatia