Croatia vs Belgium FIFA LIVE Football Score 01/12/2022

Speculation over Belgium’s demise is greatly exaggerated, Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic said ahead of Thursday’s decisive showdown between the two Group F sides. “We are playing against the second-best football team in the world and they were number one,” he told reporters on Wednesday. Indeed, the Red Devils, as Belgium are known, are currently ranked behind only Brazil by FIFA. But while Dalic knows his team can’t take them lightly, Belgium stand on the precipice of a shock World Cup exit as they head into Thursday’s match. Belgium’s opening game against Canada saw them outplayed for large parts of the 90 minutes, and they were lucky to escape with three points after some wayward finishing from the opposition. They were further humbled in their second match when a rampant Morocco defeated them with two second-half goals. Belgium’s flat performance led Kevin de Bruyne to say his team, which came third at the 2018 World Cup, is “too old” to achieve World Cup success this year.

Later, reports emerged that there had been a dressing room argument between De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and veteran defender Jan Vertonghen. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has since dismissed these reports as “invented stories”. What’s definitely real is the risk of elimination the Belgians face as they take on Croatia, who have enjoyed a better start to the World Cup. Croatia played out a cagey goalless draw against Morocco in their opening match but fired four past Canada in their second game. 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. The Red Devils currently sit in third place, one point behind the Checkered Ones and Morocco in the top two heading into their final group fixture.

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 67 seconds, 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. 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 boss Dalic is unlikely to make too many changes, if any, to his starting lineup following Sunday’s victory, which could see Livaja continue as the central striker in between fellow attackers Kramaric and Ivan Perisic. Thirty-seven-year-old captain Luka Modric is just one booking away from a suspension, but the Real Madrid man is expected to retain his place in centre-midfield alongside Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic. While Dejan Lovren and Josko Gvardiol maintain their partnership at centre-back, Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa will be hoping to keep their places at full-back ahead of Josip Stanisic and Borna Barisic respectively.

As for Belgium, Martinez is forced to make at least one change to his side on Thursday as midfielder Amadou Onana is ruled out through suspension, with Youri Tielemans expected to deputise alongside Axel Witsel. Romelu Lukaku, who has been hampered with hamstring and thigh injuries so far this season, came off the bench against Morocco to make his first appearance in Qatar, and Martinez is hopeful that the striker will be fit to start against Croatia. However, Michy Batshuayi is still the most likely candidate to lead the line for the Red Devils, while De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are expected to retain their places even though the attacking pair have struggled to make their mark in Qatar thus far. Timothy Castagne may continue in the back three alongside experienced centre-back duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, shielding goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who is poised to make his 100th international appearance between the sticks.

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