Croatia and Belgium met at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Thursday, December 1, for their final Group F match at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Croatia national team enters the last round with 4 points: 1 point for drawing against Morocco and 3 points after defeating Canada 4-1. Belgium, on the other hand, had only 3 points going into the final round. While they narrowly beat Canada, they suffered a shocking defeat to Morocco (0-2).
Belgium needed a win to advance to the round of 16, while Croatia would be safe with a draw. Croatia losing would seriously complicate their chances of moving forward and would depend on the result between Morocco and Canada in the other Group F match.
There has been a lot of talk about the crisis in the Belgium camp as one of the world’s top national teams struggles to find its rhythm. Are they motivated enough by the noise to prove everyone wrong against Croatia?
Croatia: Livaković; Juranović, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Brozović, Modrić, Kovačić; Kramarić, Perišić, Livaja
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Meunier, Castagne, Witsel, Dendoncker, De Bruyne, Carrasco, Trossard, Mertens
Seconds after the whistle to start the match, Perisic hit a rocket at Belgium’s goal, which went wide. Croatia was dangerous in the next few plays and got the ball into the penalty area.
Carrasco threatened in the 3rd minute, but Croatia’s defense cleared any potential danger.
Croatia looked calm as they played one-twos up the midfield, working their way into Belgium’s box.
Belgium picked up their game and looked for holes in the Croatia defense to play through to Carrasco. There was a close encounter in the 11th minute when he shot near post, but it was brilliantly kicked out by Livakovic for a Belgium corner.
A quick counter for Belgium in the 12th minute saw De Bruyne take the ball up into Croatia’s half, finding Mertens alone on the left wing. Fortunately, Mertens shot high over the goal.
Modric took a free kick in the 14th minute. The ball made it into the penalty area and the play ultimately resulted in Kramaic falling to the ground. The ref immediately called for a penalty. After consulting VAR, the penalty was recalled due to offside.
Croatia looked better than Belgium in the first 20 minutes of the match. They quickly found their rhythm, was first to every ball and put pressure on the defense. They only had to watch out for quick Belgium counterattacks thus far.
Croatia was awarded a corner in the 26th minute, which was cleared by the Belgium defense.
Belgium spent a few minutes in Croatia’s half, unable to produce anything dangerous enough for a goal. Croatia was composed with short passes up the pitch to regain possession.
Sosa worked his way up the left wing and found Brozovic alone at the top of the box, who took one touch too many before shooting. Livaja tried with his head but went over the goal.
Up until now, Belgium struggled to connect passes or crosses. However, Belgium regained possession in the last 5 minutes of the first half and began to control the game. Mertens had a chance in the 43rd minute, and De Bruyne tried crossing into the penalty area in the next play, which was saved by Livakovic.
Kramaric found Sosa in Croatia’s next attack, which he shot over the goal.
Lukaku was warming up to go in for the second half. The referee announced four minutes of additional time. Juranovic closed out the half with a volley on goal.
The first half ended 0-0. The other Group F match between Canada – Morocco ended 1-2 at the half.
The first half ended with 46% possession for Croatia and 53% for Belgium. Both teams had 5 shots on goal, 0 on target, and 1 corner kick.
The second half started with no substitutions for Croatia. Lukaku replaced Martens for Belgium.
Belgium had a dangerous chance in the 48th minute, which Gvardiol cleared for a corner. The ball ultimately found Lukaku’s head and ended in Livakovic’s hands.
Croatia had an excellent chance in the 50th minute. Gvardiok received the ball at the top of the box, faked the defense, and found Kovacic, whose shot skimmed off Courtois’ fingers for a corner.
Croatia had another great chance three minutes later. Brozovic picked up the pass on the edge of the penalty area and shot directly at Courtois. Modric did the same moments later.
Trossard came off for Thorgen Hazard in the 58th minute.
The most dangerous chance of the match came in the 60th minute. De Bruyne brilliantly played Carrasco. The Croatia defense tried clearing the play before the ball found Lukaku. His shot rocked the post.
Croatia made their first substitutions in the 64th minute – Petkovic came on for Livaja and Pasalic for Kramaric.
Croatia threatened again in the 67th minute. Modrić received a great cross from the penalty area. He shot sharply to the right side of the goal, but Courtois made a great save.
In the 72nd minute, Leander Dendoncker came off for Youri Tielemans and Yannick Carrasco for Jeremy Doku.
The match attendance was announced in the 76th minute – 43,984.
Ivan Perisic dribbled through Belgium’s defense but failed to get a shot off in time. The ball was cleared by the Belgium defense and ended up in Croatia’s box and ultimately out a Belgium corner. Croatia got lucky.
Croatia had a few chances in the next few minutes. Juranovic got the ball into the box, and Petkovic played Broz into the penalty area. Broz just missed the ball.
But another dangerous attempt from Belgium followed, with Lukaku just missing the goal.
Eden Hazard came on in the 87th minute and was given the captain band from De Bruyne.
A Belgium free kick in the 88th minute went into the hands of Livakovic. And another even more threatening play that Livakovic saved on the goal line.
The ref added 4 minutes of stoppage time to the end of the match.
Lovro Majer came on for Kovacic in the 90th miunte.
It was a very tense last few minutes with everyone on the edge of their seat. But the minimum result we needed, we got. Croatia and Belgium finished 0-0, which was enough for Croatia to advance to the last 16!
Luka Modric was awarded the man of the match.
Group F crosses over with Group E. The final group E matches are played later tonight, when Croatia will learn its opponent.
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