Croatia vs. Belgium World Cup 2022: Date & Time, Match Preview, Team News, Prediction

Group F favourites Belgium face the prospect of elimination at the first hurdle of the 2022 World Cup when they take on Croatia at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Thursday.
November 30, 2022 | 08:45

Croatia face Belgium on Thursday afternoon in a meeting between two medallists from the 2018 World Cup.

Both sides may have reached the semi-finals in Russia but a passage to the round of 16 in Qatar is not certain for either nation heading into the final game of Group F.

Zlatko Dalic's runners-up are better placed after victory against Canada took them to four points; a draw would send Croatia through. Belgium's position is more precarious in the wake of a limp loss to Morocco.

Roberto Martinez's side could theoretically qualify with one more point but only if winless Canada defeat Morocco by four or more goals in the other group game. A win would confirm Belgium's qualification and leave Croatia sweating over Morocco's result.

Where are Croatia vs Belgium playing?

Photo: ESPN
Photo: ESPN

• Location: Ar-Rayyan, Qatar

• Stadium: Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

• Date: Thursday 1 December

• Kick-off Time: 15:00 GMT / 10:00 ET / 07:00 PT

Croatia team news

Nikola Vlasic started Croatia's opener against Morocco but was removed with a calf problem at half-time. The West Ham loanee recovered to make the bench against Canada but his replacement, Marko Livaja, delivered a strong argument to retain his starting berth with a crisply struck goal.

The arrival of a traditional striker shifted Andrej Kramaric to the right wing, where he scored twice on Sunday afternoon.

Croatia predicted lineup vs Belgium

Croatia Starting 11 (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic.

Bench: Grbic, Ivusic, Erlic, Vida, Sutalo, Barisic, Stanisic, Jakic, Sucic, Majer, Osric, Pasalic, Petkovic, Budimir, Vlasic.

Belgium team news

Photo: BBC
Photo: Reuters

Romelu Lukaku was deemed fit enough to come on for the final ten minutes of Belgium's surprise defeat to Morocco. The Inter striker hasn't started a match for club or country since August and may still be short of the fitness required to lead the line. However, with another four days to continue his recovery, Lukaku could make a longer cameo at least.

Amadou Onana will play no part after collecting a second, suspension-inducing booking against the Atlas Lions.

Belgium predicted lineup vs Croatia

Belgium Starting 11 (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Trossard; De Bruyne, E Hazard; Batshuayi.

Bench: Casteels, Mignolet, Debast, Faes, Theate, Dendoncker, Vanaken, De Ketelaere, T Hazard, Carrasco, Doku, Lukaku, Mertens, Openda

Match preview

After playing out a goalless draw with Morocco in their opening Group F fixture, Croatia responded with an impressive 4-1 victory over Canada on Sunday, boosting their last-16 hopes while eliminating the Maple Leafs in the process.

The Checkered Ones were initially made to work for the three points, with Alphonso Davies heading Canada in front after just two minutes, but Andrej Kramaric and Marko Livaja both netted towards the end of the first half to turn the game on its head.

Kramaric then tucked away his second of the match 20 minutes from time before Lovro Majer came off the bench to wrap up the three points in added time and put Croatia in control of Group F.

Indeed, Zlatko Dalic's side now sit at the summit of their group with four points, narrowly above Morocco in second on goals scored, and the 2018 World Cup runners-up require just a draw against Belgium to book their place in the knockout rounds. A victory, meanwhile, would guarantee top spot if Morocco fail to beat Canada by a greater goal margin than the Checkered Ones.

Croatia, ranked 12th in the world by FIFA, boast a strong run of form heading into Thursday's contest, as they are unbeaten in their last eight matches across all competitions, while they have also lost only one of their last 18 internationals since Euro 2020.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The Balkan nation have not beaten Belgium since securing a 1-0 friendly victory in 2010, but spirits are high within the Croatian camp and Dalic and co will feel they have a strong chance of capitalising on the poor form that Thursday's counterparts are struggling to shake off.

Four years on from finishing third at the World Cup in Russia – their best-ever result at a major tournament – Belgium's golden generation are now staring down the barrel of a possible early exit at the group stage in Qatar.

In their opening Group F fixture, the Red Devils were fortunate to come away with maximum points in a slender 1-0 win against a courageous Canada outfit, but their luck ran out against Morocco as they were beaten 2-0 on Sunday courtesy of two late strikes from Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal.

While riots in the streets of Brussels broke out after the match, frictions within the Belgium camp have allegedly emerged, with recent media reports claiming that Romelu Lukaku had to intervene to break up a post-match dressing room bust-up between Kevin De Bruyne and Jan Vertonghen.

Indeed, De Bruyne's eyebrow-raising claims that he and his teammates are "too old" to win the World Cup have not helped Belgium's cause, and they are somewhat perplexing as two of this year's pre-tournament favourites, Brazil and Argentina, both have older squads on average.

Roberto Martinez is under pressure to steer his side out of the group, and the Red Devils require a victory against Croatia to guarantee their place in the last 16. A draw, meanwhile, will only be enough to claim a top-two spot if Morocco lose by three or more goals against Canada.

Belgium, ranked second in the world by FIFA, have lost three of their last four games in all competitions, but they are unbeaten in their last three meetings with Croatia, including a narrow 1-0 friendly win in June last year, which provides a glimmer of optimism for the Red Devils heading into Thursday's crucial clash.

Croatia vs Belgium score prediction

There are a lot of familiar faces in both squads from the podium finishes in 2018 but Belgium seem to be anchored more firmly in the past. Ten players that featured in their semi-final defeat to France four-and-a-half years ago have already appeared this winter.

Kevin De Bruyne's pre-tournament admission that his nation has "no chance" of winning the World Cup because "we're too old" has been painfully apparent in a pair of listless performances.

Martinez pledged: "We will play to win against Croatia and that will be the start of us at this World Cup.” However, if they produce the same lumbering display on Thursday, it will be the end of Belgium at this World Cup.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Belgium

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