Hello! Welcome to the most difficult group to call in my opinion. Belgium reap the rewards of being rather good in 2022 and are the seeded team despite being little more than average in 1997. Who are our managers guiding these teams through it all?
Veteran competitor Tom Reed has Belgium, which as mentioned in the intro isn’t the plumb draw it might have been but I still make them second favourites in this group. Blog Squad member Deano has Croatia’s talented pool of players at his disposal and they must have a chance of getting out of the group. Newcomer but experienced Youtuber KiotaGaming has drawn Australia. It’s a poor draw, Australia are more like their 2022 counterparts than the peak Australia side of the Viduka and Kewell days. Lastly, Paddy/90sFootball has Morocco. Chippo, Hadji and…the rest. It’s tough to call.
Australia vs Belgium
KiotaGaming (KG) has opted for the classic formation. I realise I said earlier there was no Kewell but there is, he’s just young and relatively hopeless.
Tom’s going 4-4-2 direct. It’s all about Marc Emmers really, though Oliveira is primed and ready.
Australia take the early lead which sparks excitement and many choruses of Waltzing Matilda. Oliveira Duckworth equalises though and after many, many shots, eventually Enzo Scifo secures the points.
Obviously Bertrand Crasson gets man of the match.
The result is inarguable really on the balance of play.
Let’s have a look at Croatia and Morocco.
Croatia vs Morocco
Deano has opted for this 4-1-3-2 which is a bit different but you know, it might work. There’s some incredible players at the top end of the field.
Paddy has a tough draw but 4-4-2 attacking might get him through this. Then again, it might not. Time will tell.
Croatia get off to a flying start thanks to Boksic and Bjelica of Betis makes it 2. The world expects Croatia to rack up 5 or 6 but instead we witness a stirring comeback. Hassan starts it and Chaouch ends it. Two goals, the points shared and much to ponder.
2 shots on target, 2 goals will worry Deano. As will their profligacy.
Len Goodman dishing out the Morocco ratings.
On we go then…
Belgium vs Croatia
This is the biggest game of the group. Tom sticks with the plan.
As does Deano.
This wasn’t a classic. 20 shots between them but only 3 on target. The nillest of nils.
Make 3 saves? Get man of the match.
In many ways, that opens things up for the two underdogs.
Morocco vs Australia
Kachloul is in for the injured Hassan, otherwise unchanged.
The Aussies will hope for better this time.
Well, I don’t think anybody expected this. It takes 34 minutes to break the deadlock, which is less surprising but Chippo wedges the door open and before you know it, it’s 3-0. Future Southampton star Kachloul with a quickfire double. Vidmar pulls one back right after half time but that just encourages Morocco to finish the job. Hadji gets 2, Kachloul completes his hat-trick and Chaouch gets in on the act. Wow.
No such worries for Len this time.
Sadly that means KG is out with a game to spare. Paddy just needs a point to advance, Deano needs a win.
Australia vs Croatia
Luckily for Dean, Australia have been quite welcoming on that front.
Once more, off we go.
It’s a tense, there’s a lot riding on this for Croatia. Australia have a sense of freedom caused by having nothing to play for. Eventually, on 53 minutes Suker is fouled and Stanic slots the penalty. Boksic soon adds a second but Agostino immediately pulls one back. It’s a nerve jangling 20 minutes but Croatia advance.
Spehar gets the champers.
Another result Australia can’t really argue with.
Deano is through then but who will join him.
Morocco vs Belgium
Can Paddy pull this off? He’s sticking to it.
Tom is also still a 442 man.
We knew it would be a tight group but perhaps not one for the neutral. Neither side can find the quality in the final third. The point is perfect for Paddy but a disaster for Tom – the Belgians are out.
Nothing in it, really.
Some wild man of the match awards in this group.
To confirm, do not adjust your screens, Morocco have won the group! Croatia knock Belgium out on goals scored. Poor Australia leave with nothing.
Join us tomorrow for Group G where the mighty Brazil join the party.