The Croatian and Belgian national teams face the danger of exiting the first round of the World Cup finals in Qatar, while Morocco has the opportunity to rewrite history, Thursday, in the third and last round of Group F competitions.
Belgium will meet Croatia in a heated summit, at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, while Morocco will play with Canada at Al-Thumama Stadium.
The competition for the two qualifying cards to the final price became a three-way between Croatia, Belgium and Morocco, who shuffled the cards of the group by imposing a tie on Luka Modric’s comrades in the first round, and defeating the Red Devils in the second.
The Atlas Lions are equal with Croatia at the top with four points each, and they have a third match ahead of them against Canada, which lost its hopes of competing by occupying last place without a score.
The Moroccan national team has its fate in its hands and will qualify in the three cases: winning, drawing and even losing if Belgium loses or if Croatia loses and the goal difference between them is in their favour, and if Belgium draws and the goal difference between them is in their favour.
The Atlas Lions stood out remarkably in the current version and are about to repeat their achievement in 1986, when they became the first Arab and African team to pass the first round, before losing with difficulty to West Germany with a fatal goal in the 89th minute scored by Lothar Matthaus from a free kick from outside the area, taking advantage of a fatal mistake. to the human wall.
Morocco coach Walid Regrak called on his players to maintain a “victory mentality”, adding: “We did not do anything. We did not qualify for the final price that we came here for. We had the desire to play like the ancient teams, and we know how to pass the first round.” .
He added, “Canada is a very good team, and to beat them, we have to maintain this fighting spirit.”
No fear for the lions’ den
Rekragui hopes to restore the services of his goalkeeper Yassine Bono, who withdrew at the last moment from the start of the Belgium match, due to a renewed injury he suffered in the first match against Croatia, which he did not want to specify.
The distinguished goalkeeper explained to France Press the reason for his departure before the match, “I am in good shape. I had an injury from the Croatia match. I did not want to determine its quality and renewed. I hope to be ready for the Canada match.”
Bono trained normally on Monday and Tuesday, but the nature of the injury he suffered, which he refused to reveal, raises more than one question mark about his readiness to compete in the Canada match, the gateway to qualifying for the final eight for the second time in its history after 1986.
Bono is considered a mainstay in the Moroccan national team and one of the contributors to its reaching the finals for the sixth time in its history.
His replacement, Mounir Al-Mohammadi, was as good as expected against Belgium, and he managed to keep his net clean.
“We are soldiers on standby,” Al-Mohammadi told AFP after the match. “I did not expect to play a key role, and I did not have enough time to get into the atmosphere of the match, but I am a professional and I have great experience and knowledge of the lions’ den.”
One last chance for Belgium’s golden generation
For its part, the Belgian national team has one and last chance to ensure the continuation of its career in the World Cup after its resounding loss against Morocco, in light of increasing pressure on its Spanish coach Roberto Martinez and his players.
Anything other than a victory over Croatia on Thursday may lead to the world number two returning home after the group stage, and in the event of a tie: he will qualify if Morocco loses and the goal difference between them is in his favour.
Kevin De Bruyne said in an interview with The Guardian before the loss to Morocco that his country was “too old” and had “no chance” of winning the World Cup.
His coach Martinez insisted after the match that it may have been a “double-trick” from the Manchester City star, but if he was serious, it would be hard to disagree based on their performance in Qatar so far.
Martinez has been largely associated with experienced players who have reached at least the quarter-finals in each of the past four Grand Slams.
The Belgian national team failed to pose any real threat against Canada (1-0) and Morocco, and it seemed to be greatly affected by the absence of the historic scorer, Romelu Lukaku, due to injury, and his participation was not feasible in the last seconds against the Atlas Lions.
Belgium’s golden generation has done well in the past six years, crowned them with third place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
And the attacking style of the Red Devils disappeared after qualifying for the finals without defeat.
The Belgian press was highly critical of the team, with website HLN saying “there must be fresh blood”.
“We have nothing to lose”
Martinez believes that having his team in front of one last chance to qualify, he will push him to give his best. “In the last match we have to play to win it as if we have nothing to lose.”
He added, “If we beat Croatia, we are (still) in the World Cup and that is a great motivation.”
On the eve of the defeat to Morocco, Hazard also said he believed Belgium’s best chance to win the World Cup had passed.
There were rumors of trouble within the squad, with Vertonghen sarcastically criticizing De Bruyne’s comments. “A lot of things are on my mind right now, but it’s better not to say these things in front of the camera,” he told Belgian TV Sporta.
“Maybe we also attack badly because the players (attackers) are very old,” he added.
Belgium should put their troubles aside when they meet Croatia, who excelled in the second match when they rained down Canada 4-1.
On Tuesday, Hazard promised “eleven warriors” to face Croatia, stressing that the Red Devils had “discussed” and calmed tensions after their defeat by Morocco.
“We had a good meeting yesterday (Monday) between the players, we said a lot of things. Above all, we told each other that there is still a game ahead of us, and that is the most important thing,” he said.
“We know we’re going through a more complicated time than usual, but we’re all united,” he added.
“Looking at what was said yesterday, in the small meeting, I think we won’t have 11 warriors but 26, even those who don’t play,” he added.
Similar to Morocco, Croatia has its fate in its hands if it wins or draws, as well as loses, provided that Morocco loses and resorts to the goal difference between them.
In addition to the two qualification cards, the three teams set their sights on the lead to avoid a heated confrontation in the final price round against the Spanish Armada, which is nominated for the top of Group E.
The goal difference will be decisive between Croatia and Morocco if they win or tie, while Belgium has the opportunity to take the lead if it wins and Morocco falters, so all bets remain open.