FIFA World Cup 2022: European giants facing tough test
FIFA World Cup 2022: European giants facing tough test

DOHA: The 2022 FIFA World Cup represents the final opportunity for Belgium and Croatia's golden generations to deliver glory, but Canada and Morocco join the competition as underdogs and are prepared to do more than just cause difficulty for the two powerhouses.

The best-ever World Cup results for both countries were Croatia's runners-up finish in 2018 after losing to France 4-2 in Moscow, and Belgium's third-place playoff victory.

The two European teams were drawn in a group that also includes Canada and Morocco, so it's not completely doom and gloom for them, but they still have to fight to repeat their deep runs from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Out of their previous four World Cup campaigns, Morocco only made it to the round of 16 once, in 1986. In the same year, Canada made their lone previous World Cup appearance and placed last in their group. However, both nations are hoping to pull off a shock in Qatar after dominating their respective qualification campaigns.

BELGIUM The world's second-ranked team breezed through qualifying, winning their group and going undefeated in eight games with a goal differential of 19.

Seventh-year national team manager Roberto Martinez prefers a 3-4-2-1 style with talents Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, the brains behind striker Romelu Lukaku.

They rely heavily on Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, two seasoned defenders who line up in front of ace goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, to anchor their defence.

De Bruyne, Hazard, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Courtois, Dries Mertens, and Axel Witsel, the team's primary players from the golden generation, are all in their 30s, except for Lukaku, who is 29 and recovering from a thigh injury.
Leading athlete: Kevin De Bruyne The midfielder, who ranks among the finest in the world, has had a strong start to the season with Manchester City, making 17 games in the Premier League and Champions League while tallying three goals and 13 assists.

The 31-year-old, who played in Belgium's quarterfinal defeat to Italy despite ruptured ankle ligaments, was not at his best during Euro 2020 and will be looking to redeem himself.

Watch out for Zeno Debast Martinez may want to use Debast, a youngster, as a fresh face because Belgium's age in defence is a huge worry. The 19-year-old has made an impact for Anderlecht in the Belgian Pro League, sparking speculation that Liverpool is interested in him and drawing comparisons to fellow countryman Vincent Kompany. Debast, who began his career as an attacking midfielder, is assured with the ball and frequently starts offences with long passes from the back.

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