Analyzing World Cup 2022 Group F
Right after the World Cup draw was performed on April 1st, 2022, so many pundits threw in their two cents worth. I waited a bit until the smoke cleared to lay down the thoughts that are in my head. Initial reaction - I think Canada are in a pretty balanced group. In fact, the groups are fairly balanced across the board and there is no one group that can be considered a "Group of Death". Group E comes closest with Spain, Germany and Japan, but when you add the winner of the CONCACAF/Oceania playoff, either Costa Rica or New Zealand into it, there is one clearly weaker team. Had Canada drawn into that group (and for a while, there was a real possibility of that happening), Group E certainly could have been given the label of "Group of Death". In this post, I want to research and find out for myself more about each of the teams Canada will face and see what interesting things I can come up with. We start with Canada's first match - against the mighty Belgians.
To start, here is Canada's info:
Current FIFA Ranking: 43
Manager - John Herdman (England)
Preferred Formation: 3-5-2, but will switch to 4-4-2 in games
Possible Starting XI:
GK - Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade - Serbia Superliga)
DF - Sam Adekugbe (Hatayspor - Turkey Süper Lig)
DF - Alistair Johnston (CF Montreal - MLS)
DF - Steven Vittoria (Chaves - Portugal Primeira Liga)
MF - Atiba Hutchinson (Beşiktaş JK - Turkey Süper Lig )
MF - Stephen Eustáquio - FC Porto - Portugal Primeira Liga)
MF - Richie Laryea (Nottingham Forest - England Premier)
MF - Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge - Belgium Division 1 A)
MF - Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich - Germany Bundesliga)
FW - Jonathan David (Lille OSC - France Ligue 1 )
FW - Cyle Larin (Club Brugge - Belgium Division 1 A)
Current FIFA Ranking: 2
Manager: Roberto Martinez (Spain)
Possible Formation: 3-4-2-1
Anticipated Starting XI:
GK - Thibault Courtois (Real Madrid - Spain La Liga)
CB - Jan Vertonghen (Benfica - Portugal Primeira Liga)
CB - Dedryck Boyata (Hertha BSC - Germany Bundesliga)
CB - Toby Alderweireld (Al-Duhail - Qatar Stars League)
LWB - Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund - Germany Bundesliga)
DM - Youri Tielemans (Leicester City - England Premier League)
CM - Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City - England Premier League)
RWB - Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund - Germany Bundesliga)
RW - Dries Mertens (Napoli - Italy Serie A)
CF - Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea - England Premier League)
LW - Eden Hazard (Real Madrid - Spain La Liga)
GK - Advantage: Belgium. Courtois is one of the best keepers in the game and is considered a complete modern goalkeeper. Borjan is very good and has experience in big games playing in Champions League and Europa League with Red Star Belgrade, but Belgium has the edge here.
Defenders - Advantage: slight advantage to Canada. Belgium's three central defenders are no spring chickens anymore - Vertonghen (34 years old), Boyata (31 years old), Alderweireld (33 years old). They will need help if they are going up against the Canadian track team of Davies, David, Buchanan and Lareya. Fortunately for Belgium, the attacks will mainly come from the wings where Thorgan Hazard and Meunier, who both play for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, will have dealt with Davies, but it still won't make it any easier. On the other side, Canada's central defense has Vittoria, who is no spring chicken himself. However, on either side of him will be a couple of Canada's best youngsters - Johnston and Adekugbe, who have shown they can hold their own against anyone and have emerged as solid players and we'll see how they do against Belgium's attacking players.
Midfield - Advantage: Belgium. I only have to mention one name, De Bruyne. He is one of the best midfielders in the world and will give Belgium any advantage they need against a pretty decent Canada midfield featuring Davies and Eustáquio. When you add in Leicester City's Tielemans, the edge has to go to Belgium.
Strikers - Advantage: slight advantage to Canada. This is where age might be catching up with the Belgians. Mertens is 34 and Eden Hazard is 31. Lukaku is fantastic but, for some reason, has cooled off after a brilliant start at Chelsea. Canada has some top end strikers of their own in David and Larin who were in form both internationally and with their club teams. Larin has gone from Beşiktaş in the Turkish league over to Club Brugge in Belgium and it looks like David will be staying with Lille in France for the time being after both were linked to moves to the Premier League.
Tactics - Advantage: Canada. As Roberto Martinez has stated, Canada plays more like a club team than an international team. They are able to adjust formations in-game to counter what opponents are doing and what a credit to John Herdman to be able to accomplish that.
Experience - Advantage: Belgium. Nearly the entire team has experience in big games - World Cups, Champions League, UEFA games. While a good chunk of the Canadians have Champions or Europa League experience (with Davies winning Champions League with Bayern in 2020), they come nowhere close to the big game experience the Belgians have.
Overall: Don't be surprised if this game ends in a draw. While Belgium has clear advantage with goalkeeping and midfield, it's not so clear with the defenders and strikers and you could make an argument that Canada may have a slight advantage in these areas. Canada looks to have advantage with tactics, with their ability to freely switch formations in game but Belgium is so experienced in big games. All-in-all, this could be a great matchup to start the tournament.