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Sport Preview: World Cup 2022 - Thurs 01st Dec 2022

World Cup Previews: Thurs 1st Dec

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Croatia vs Belgium: Thurs 1st Dec, 3:00pm

Belgium have been the biggest disappointment at the World Cup so far.

Roberto Martinez may have a team in decline, but he will still be lucky to keep his job if, as expected, Belgium go out in the group phase. Any manager failing to get a tune out of Kevin De Bruyne is going to find themselves under pressure.

Martinez’s men lost to Egypt on the eve of the tournament and their performances have not been befitting of a team ranked second in the world.

Belgium were fortunate to edge out Canada in their first game, but were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Morocco last time out.

Martinez’s men held the majority of possession against Morocco, but it was the Africans who created more chances and looked the biggest threat.

Canada should also have come away with something against the lacklustre Belgians, but their finishing let them down. 

Croatia, meanwhile, look like a team growing into the World Cup. Their brilliant win over Canada was a definite improvement on their opening performance against Morocco.

Their midfield triumvirate of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic really started to click against Canada – and Belgium may end up chasing shadows on Thursday.

The games against Canada are a decent benchmark for both teams and Croatia dealt a lot better with the dynamism of Canada than Belgium did.

In Andrej Kramaric, who scored twice against Canada, they also look like possessing a striker who is bang in form.

There is no doubt which team has shown the best form so far, but the bookies cannot split them for the Group F finale.

Both teams can still top the group, but Croatia look the value bet at a general 13/8. 

Japan vs Spain: Thurs 1st Dec, 7:00pm

Japan should have been facing Spain on Thursday with a place in the last 16 already assured.

Instead they will take on a Spanish side still unsure whether they can make the knockout stage after a shock 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica.

Spain had put seven past Costa Rica as the minnows laid down and had their bellies tickled. Ticos showed more resilience against Japan, but the big factor in the 1-0 scoreline was the team that Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu opted for.

He went for rotation over continuity and made five changes from the side that rolled Germany over. Looking back that now looks like a huge mistake, but Japan are capable of getting the point that could send them through.

Germany must win, but if Japan draw with Spain, then Germany will need to beat Costa Rica by at least two goals, or by a single goal providing that they score more goals than Japan on Thursday.

It looks like it could be calculators at the ready, but Japan have shown they can trouble the best and Spain are certainly in that bracket.

Their demolition of Costa Rica looked ominous, but Germany showed Spain are vulnerable despite enjoying just 35% possession.

Once Germany bypassed the Spain press, they created a number of good opportunities and Japan have enough pace to cause the high Spain line problems.

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