World Cup Preview: Wednesday’s slate features powerhouse nations in action with Spain, Germany and Belgium set to take the pitch

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ayman Aref/NurPhoto/Shutterstock (13640531ak) Fans of Morocco team during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group F match between Belgium vs Morocco, in Al Thumama Stadium at Doha, Qatar, on 27 November 2022. Belgium v Morocco: Group F – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Doha – 27 Nov 2022

World Cup Preview: Wednesday’s slate features powerhouse nations in action with Spain, Germany and Belgium set to take the pitch

Group F: Croatia (No. 12) vs. Morocco (No. 22)

When, where: 4 a.m. CT, Al Bayt Stadium (Al Kohr, Qatar)

What to expect: Croatia continues its Cinderella World Cup campaign from four years ago after “The Chequereds” made it all the way to the finals before losing to France in 2018. Despite some of its stars aging over the past four years, Croatia still boasts one of the top 15 rosters in the world, according to the most recent FIFA men’s world rankings published in October. Morocco – also known as “The Lions of Atlas” – enters the 2022 World Cup as one of Africa’s premier clubs next to Senegal, and is certainly ripe for pulling an upset in this opening Group F match. The Moroccans will surely miss striker Tarik Tissoudali, who was ruled out of World Cup play due to a cruciate ligament injury, and they’ll need all the offensive firepower they can get against Luka Modrić and the Croatians. This opening match could indeed determine who qualifies next to Belgium for the knockout stage, so expect both teams to play tight and close to the vest, with Morocco likely content with coming out of this contest with a draw and one point.

Chris Dell’s prediction: Croatia 1, Morocco 0

Group E: Germany (No. 11) vs. Japan (No. 24)

When, where: 7 a.m. CT, Khalifa International Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

What to expect: The Japanese will be without two key cogs, striker Ryo Miyaichi, who was ruled out of the 2022 World Cup with a cruciate ligament injury, as well as defender Yuta Nakayama (Achilles), while Germany will also surely feel the loss of strikers Marco Reus and Timo Werner, in addition to midfielder Florian Writz due to injuries. Neither country was upgraded or downgraded in the most recent FIFA men’s world ranking updates, and despite an equal amount of injuries on both sides, it could indeed be Japan who suffers the most here, primarily due to a lack of depth on its overall roster. Japan struggled offensive at times during qualifying play, while Germany still has the talent and firepower on the bench to make a statement in its opener here.

Chris Dell’s prediction: Germany 2, Japan 0

Group E: Spain (No. 7) vs. Costa Rica (No. 31)

When, where: 10 a.m. CT, Al Thumama Stadium (Doha, Qatar)

What to expect: Are these two teams headed in opposite directions? Spain was recently downgraded after the most recent FIFA men’s world ranking, while Costa Rica was slightly upgraded. The gap between the two nations, however, is still massive. The No. 7-ranked Spanish have one of the deepest rosters at the 2022 World Cup, while on the other hand, Costa Rica failed to impress against its top opponents during CONCACAF qualifying play. Look for Spain to dominate from start to finish in this spot, especially after seeing what could happen to a heavily-favorited team on opening day in Saudi Arabia’s Tuesday upset over Argentina. “La Furia Roja” of Spain had players ruled out for World Cup action in Josa Gaya, Mikel Oyarzabal Ugarte and Kepa Arrizabalaga, which will certainly hurt them down the road, probably even as soon as their upcoming matchup with Germany this weekend. But it won’t matter on Wednesday, as the Spanish roster’s talent from top to bottom is too much for the Costa Ricans.

Chris Dell’s prediction: Spain 3, Costa Rica 0

Group F: Belgium (No. 2) vs. Canada (No. 41)

When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

What to expect: No. 2-ranked Belgium has been bestowed with lofty expectations for the 2022 World Cup despite many in agreement that the 2018 side was younger and more in its prime. However, it won’t matter much on opening matchday for “the Red Devils,” as Canada simply does not have the talent and depth to take advantage of Belgium’s weaknesses. Canada will be without the services of three national team members, Maxime Crepeau, Scott Kennedy, and Doneil Henry, which gives “the Canucks” a severe depth issue heading into Group F play. Look for Belgium to right the 2018 ship and start 2022 with a dominant win over the Canadians here.

Chris Dell’s prediction: Belgium 3, Canada 1

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