We continue our World Cup group reviews with an eclectic mixture in Group F. Here we have a side in Belgium that has had all the promise in recent years but hasn’t quite made the final push. We have a very technically proficient Croatia side that was the previous tournament’s runner-up, and we have two sides in Morocco and Canada that have very little pedigree on the world stage. That’s especially true of Canada, making its first World Cup appearance since 1986 in Mexico!
FIFA ranking: 2nd
Manager: Roberto Martínez
Qualified via: UEFA Group E winners
2018 World Cup result: 3rd Place
Belgium is a very serious contender to win this year’s World Cup. We see a similar set of players as in 2018 when they were knocked out by the eventual champions from France. In 2018, Belgium cruised to a top spot in group play against Wales, Czech Republic, Estonia and Belarus, going through the entire eight games unbeaten (W6, D2) with a healthy goal difference due to attacking talents. Frontman Romelu Lukaku was top scorer with five goals.
Spaniard Roberto Martinez has managed Belgium since 2016, and his coaching staff includes the legendary Thierry Henry as well as former player Thomas Vermaelen. Most of our readers will be familiar with Martinez from his time in the Premier League and La Liga.
Fantasy assets begin with Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku (9.5m), who will usually line up at center forward. He offers great value in an attacking team, but his fitness is doubtful after successive muscle injuries that have limited his playing time in Italy. This means that dirt-cheap forward Michy Batshuayi (6.5m) could start the early matches, offering even better value.
Unsurprisingly, Kevin De Bruyne (11m) is the most expensive midfielder in the game, but Eden Hazard (8m) could be an interesting budget option at the other forward position. In goal, Belgium is in safe hands with Thibaut Courtois (6m), who is among the top three most expensive keepers in the game. The experienced and attack-minded defender Thomas Meunier (6m) could also profit well in this side.
Since Belgium has such an embarrassment of riches, the difficulty for fantasy managers in the early rounds will be deciding which three to buy now, because we won’t be allowed more than that until later.
FIFA ranking: 41st
Manager: John Herdman
Qualified via: CONCACAF third round group winners
2018 World Cup result: Did not qualify
We now go to a team that doesn’t really have any global pedigree at all. Canada’s first and only prior appearance in the World Cup was Mexico-86 where they finished bottom of their group after losing all three games. England, Wales, and the USA might wish that Canada had been sorted into Group-B to make it an all English-speaking nations mini-tournament, but we’re not in 1986 any more.
The Canadians had a great qualifying campaign, finishing top of their group (W8, D4, L2) ahead of Mexico, United States and Costa Rica, among others. They conceded only seven goals in the 14 matches while scoring a respectable 23.
Due to position and rank, Canada’s players are all priced cheaply, so there’s a chance to find some gems if they can continue their impressive form. Alphonso Davies (5m) is their big-name player, known from the Bayern Munich team.
Canada may struggle to get out of the group, but Davies is classed as a defender in the fantasy game even though he takes a much more attacking position on the field and could also score big with set-piece duties. Up front is Lille striker Jonathan David will lead the line; he scored five goals during qualification. Canada will need successful defensive performances to do anything, and cheap goalkeeper Milan Borjan (4.5m) offers sound experience at the back and could rack up save points.
FIFA ranking: 22nd
Manager: Walid Regragui
Qualified via: CAF third round winners
2018 World Cup result: Group stage
Morocco appeared at the last Word Cup but had a disappointing campaign, picking up just a single point. But that draw came against group-winner Spain, so consistency was their main issue. Before 2018, we must go back to 1998 when Morocco qualified and had a respectable campaign with a win and draw in group play, finishing 3rd. This will be Morocco’s 6th World Cup appearance since gaining independence from France in 1954.
Morocco does have some experience in the World Cup, players Saiss, Hakimi and Bounou having featured previously. But they are without four players who were part of their qualification campaign, so it’s a mixed bag.
Their star player is PSG fullback Achraf Hakimi (5m), who scored in Morocco’s third round of qualifiers. He is really the only option at the back worth considering due to his attacking and explosive play.
Hakim Ziyech (7m), mid-priced in the game, is Morocco’s most expensive asset. The Chelsea man is usually on free-kicks and corners; he should play a key role if the Moroccans are to do well.
FIFA ranking: 12th
Manager: Zlatko Dalić
Qualified via: UEFA Group H Winners
2018 World Cup result: Runners up
Managed by Dalic since 2017, here’s another team with a stellar World Cup pedigree in recent years. Being an Englishman, I especially remember Croatia’s experience and tactics finally putting England to the sword in the 109th minute of the 2018 semifinals, before they later succumbed to favorites France in the trophy match.
Croatia’s history as a footballing nation is brief; pre 1990, it was part of Yugoslavia along with a handful of other modern-day countries. Croatia’s first World Cup was in France 1998 where they had an impressive campaign, finishing 3rd (striker Davor Suker ended up as top scorer with six goals). Since then, the Croats have been in every single World Cup save 2010.
One thing that may work against Croatia is that a lot of their key players are in the twilight years of their careers, so there is going to be a transition period for them after this tournament.
Croatia navigated a tricky group to finish top in the qualifiers (W7, D2, L1) where they only conceded four goals while scoring 21. Ballon d’or winner, Luka Modric (8.5m) is absolutely essential to this side even though he’s now 37 years old. He’s still performing at the top-level for Real Madrid and is on set-pieces and penalties, also having chipped in with goals during the qualifiers. Another well-known established player is Tottenham’s Ivan Perisic (7.5m) who will take up the left-side attacking position. He has been in strong goal-scoring form in previous appearances for Croatia, including three goals during the qualifiers.
Ready to play fantasy FIFA World Cup 2022? Join our mini-league using this link:
League code: K2QVR5ZB
Then chart your pathway to success using our how-to guide to the official fantasy World Cup game, our Group Stage fixture difficulty table, and our previews of each of the other World Cup groups (either published or coming soon!
How do you see Group F unfolding? Will Belgium cruise through? Will Canada manage to cause any upsets? Will an aging Croatia side struggle? Please log in, take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments!
Which team will win Group F?