One of the deepest groups in the World Cup field is the focus of today’s ATS 2022 World Cup futures preview as we take a look at a stacked Group F headlined by Belgium and 2018 finalists Croatia. We will also make our soccer betting picks for World Cup Group F futures betting purposes.
Dark horses Canada led by versatile and speedy superstar Alphonso Davies and talented African representatives Morocco round out a group with four quality squads. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the European big boys suffer a shock defeat, or miss the Round of 16 entirely at the hands of the underdogs in this group,
Belgium are the odds-on favorites to top the group at -188 odds, followed by Croatia at +250. The Canadians are longshots at +1200, and Morocco are +1000 to top Group F.
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Last Dance for Belgium’s Golden Generation
Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ is always a lock to get to the knockout stages at major tournaments, making the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups. Unfortunately for Belgium’s squad of stars, their decade plus of being a sexy pick to win tournaments hasn’t come to fruition with a trophy or even an appearance in the finals.
Belgium enters Qatar with a lower FIFA ranking than in those tournaments but with the hope that a sense of urgency from their aging core can inspire a fairytale ending. Midfielder Kevin De Bryune and striker Romelu Lukaku will again lead the line in what could be the final World Cup for both stars.
KDB is still one of the best playmakers in the world, leading the Premier League with nine goals. Lukaku’s stature in the domestic game has waned due to injury issues and a failed move to Chelsea. However, you have to respect one of the best tournament goalscorers of his era and expect Lukaku to add to his 11 goal tally at major tournaments since 2014.
Belgium might be staring at Father Time but they have too much talent to not get something out of this group. They should overpower Canada and Morocco and get something out of a European clash with Croatia to finish top of Group F.
Concerns for Croatia
Croatia came oh so close to a dark horse World Cup story for the ages in Russia. Thanks to the play of national heroes such as Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic, Croatia upset England before giving France all they could handle in the final in a magical run.
The problem for Croatia is Modric is now 37 and on his last legs. Modric will become the first player to play in both the World Cup and Euros in three different decades but carrying Croatia on his shoulders to a deep tournament run might be too tall of a task for the aging midfield great.
Croatia will likely go as far as Modric’s supporting cast will assist them. But without Mandzukic leading the line up top it is much harder to see success from the Croatians in the follow up act to their biggest glory.
Dark Horse Canada
Canada are a sexy dark horse entering the tournament. Topping CONCACAF Qualifying over Mexico and the United States, Les Rouges make their first World Cup appearance since 1986 with a wealth of mainstays at top European clubs on their roster and a fighting spirit.
FC Bayern speedster Alphonso Davies leads the line as the star man, paired with Lille striker Jonathan David to make a one two punch of two of the sport’s brightest young stars. Davies has won a Champions League at Bayern already and David’s goals lifted Lille to a miraculous Ligue 1 title over French giants PSG. Now both players will look to take their club and CONCACAF success to the biggest stage of their careers in Qatar.
Canada’s qualification will also give some veterans a well deserved moment to top off their careers. Most notably Atiba Hutchinson and Junior Hoilett, whose decade long careers will see a World Cup journey where their leadership will be key to keeping the mentality that saw them surpass both Mexico and the United States over the last 12 months.
Canada’s toughness and willingness to grind gave them a special edge in the notoriously physical CONCACAF qualification campaign. Former women’s team manager John Herdman morphed the men’s program into a stingy defensive unit that conceded the least goals in qualifying with just seven. Despite having a defensive spine of little known names from Major League Soccer, the Portuguese Liga and the defensive midfield presence of Hutchinson.
After frustrating opponents with tough tackling and a willingness to get scrappy, Canada made sure to pounce on their opportunities on the counter. Led by David and Cyle Larin up front, Canada also scored more goals than their CONCACAF rivals with 23.
Beating the US and Mexico proved Canada belongs in the World Cup. The next step is overcoming two opponents in Belgium and Croatia that are significant steps up in talent. Canada has the skill and speedy hustle to frustrate anybody on any given day and could shock the world in Qatar.
(Disclaimer: The writer of this preview is a Canadian. Allez Les Rouges.)
Morocco Look to Conquer Qatar Demons
Morocco, like Canada, will be a live underdog in Group F led by a domestic star of their own. Former Ajax and current Chelsea man Hakim Ziyech and PSG fullback Archaf Hakimi will look to lead Morocco to an upset result or two and hopefully the Round of 16.
If Morocco are to have success in this tournament, they will need to conquer some recent demons and bad memories in Qatar. The last tournament Morocco played in Qatar ended in disaster, losing to Algeria in the quarterfinal stage of the Arab Cup.
Morocco will likely finish last in Group F as after Ziyech, they lack the complimentary talent Belgium, Croatia and even Canada possess. Ziyech will likely score a tasty goal to delight the highlights but the stay in Qatar will once again be short.