Cyle Larin
FootballInternational FootballWorld Cup

Canada at the World Cup: Nothing to fear in Group Stage

April 5, 2022April 19th, 2022

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With the World Cup 2022 draw now complete, we now know who Canada will have to face in the Group Stages.

Les Rouges were drawn last in Group F and will play Belgium, Morocco, and Croatia. Although the group won’t be a walk in the park, there are tougher groups that Canada successfully dodged. Let’s take a closer look at the teams in Canada’s World Cup group and team Canada’s odds in the 2022 World Cup.

Belgium

By far the strongest team in Group F, Belgium have become one of the toughest men’s national teams in recent years. Until very recently, they were the No.1 ranked team by FIFA – so this certainly won’t be an easy ride. It is not a surprise they are by far the favourite to win the group, at a convincing -182. Meanwhile, their odds to win the tournament outright sit at a respectable +1200.

While the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Romelu Lukaku aren’t as potent as they once were, they remain quality players and share a wealth of experience on the big stage. Meanwhile, up-and-coming Belgian youngsters, such as Club Brugge’s, Charles De Ketelaere, and wonderkid Dante Vanzeir of Union SG, will be looking to make a name for themselves here too.

They cruised to the finals unbeaten in the UEFA Group E and only conceded six goals in their eight games. However, they did prove they weren’t infallible, dropping points in games against Czech Republic and Wales. The latter of these two were in the same pot for the draw as Canada, this means they are a similar outfit on paper so there is some hope for an upset.

This said, these draws were at a stage where slip-ups could be recovered from. With the stakes as high as they will be in Qatar, Belgium will be focused on ensuring they get off to a strong start and plant their flag as contenders. Unfortunately for Canada, their match is the opening game in Group F, so they will be Belgium’s first chance to do this.

The odds reflect this. Get -335 on a Belgium win, +425 on a draw, and a massive +1000 for a Canada upset.

Croatia

The second game in Canada’s World Cup campaign will be against the runners-up in the last World Cup, Croatia, who lost 2-0 to France in the 2018 final. They were certainly the surprise package of that tournament, but it is probably fair to say they are not the same team they once were. They had a relatively disappointing campaign at Euro 2020, winning just once before getting knocked out in the Last16 in a 5-3 thriller against Spain.

In World Cup qualification, although they topped Group H in the UEFA Group stage, it wasn’t a convincing performance in what was a relatively soft group. They narrowly avoided the play-offs by just one point. This said, Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia team remains difficult to write off and are currently ranked 13th to win the tournament overall, albeit at +6600.

This is because they still boast a vast deal of quality and experience in their ranks, particularly in midfield. This part of the pitch boasts Premier League stars like Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea and Nikola Vlasic of West Ham, as well Atalanta’s Maria Pasalic. All of whom are more than capable of making it tough for teams in the middle of the pitch for teams.

Of course, this is not forgetting the old guard who are still performing for club and country, despite being in the twilight of their careers. Of course, this is referring to team captain, 36-year-old Luka Modric, who is still putting in regular shifts with Real Madrid. As is 33-year-old Ivan Perisic at Inter Milan. This is likely the last World Cup for either of these, and they won’t go down without a fight.

 

Morocco

Morocco are the team in Group F that Canada should be most looking to win invaluable points from. While they are the only team in the group that has lower odds than Canada to win the tournament outright, they are nearly 20 ranks higher than them in the World Rankings.

Morocco also has a slight edge over Canada in that they have appeared more recently at this stage, having played at the 2018 World Cup. In this tournament, although they came last in their group and were knocked out early on, they did secure an impressive point. This was in their final game against soccer powerhouse and 2010 World Cup winners, Spain, in a game that ended 2-2. Building on this in their second consecutive World Cup will be at the forefront of their minds.

Furthermore, they are on the back of an impressive CAF qualification campaign. After qualifying from Round 1 automatically due to being the fifth ranked CAF team, they won all games in Round 2, scoring 20 goals and conceding just once. This unbeaten run continued in the playoff, where they first drew with DR Congo 1-1, before coming back to beat them 4-1 in the second leg.

It is unsurprising they have had such an easy time for it when you take a closer look at their squad, which is going through a Golden Era. They boast the likes of Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri of Sevilla going forward, as well as Achraf Hakimi of PSG and Ajax’s Noussair Mazraoui at the back.

When they face Canada in the final game of Group F in December, it will be the first time the teams have faced off since 2016, when a friendly between the teams ended in a 4-0 win for Morocco. However, these are two completely different sides and men’s Canadian soccer has come a long way since then.

 

Will Canada’s World Cup Continue into the Round 16?

While Group F is tough, it could be a lot worse. On paper, it is only Belgium that has the quality to play the Canadians off the pitch and they will likely lose this opening game. It is what happens after this that will determine Canada’s fortune.

Canada’s imperious defensive record means they should be able to stay in games even if they surrender the ball for large periods. Playing a possession-based team such as Croatia may set them up for a counter-attack sucker-punch. Equally, Morocco have more individual talent but Canada have shown a knack for sneaking close games by a single goal.

 

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