World Cup: Group F preview and best bets

By Nigel Seeley  (VSiN.com) 

November 17, 2022 02:16 AM
USATSI_19443634

The 2022 World Cup is finally here, and VSiN's soccer handicapper Nigel Seeley has picks, predictions and best bets for every group as part of the VSiN World Cup Guide.

Here is his Group F preview for Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea:

Odds to win Group F

Belgium -190

Croatia +200

Morocco +850

Canada 10-1

Belgium

This is a tough group with Belgium the bookies favorite at -155 to top it.

There are some that believe that the Belgium national side’s golden generation has been and gone. Many thought the Belgians would win the 2018 World Cup, but they came up short, losing to France in the semifinals and going on to finish third. They may not be the force they were in 2018, but on their day they can beat any nation.

Belgium has an unwanted distinction: The only national team that has topped the FIFA ranking and has never won a World Cup or European Championships.

The Belgians somewhat surprisingly still sit second now behind Brazil in the FIFA rankings, which doesn’t match the bookies expectations of their chances. Key players such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are getting older. In its last nine games, Belgium has lost twice, both losses coming to Netherlands, and it does concede goals, which is a big concern for the latter stages of this tournament.

Key Players

Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne may be the best player in the EPL currently. I struggle to think of a consistently better one than the Man City midfield ace.

De Bruyne finished third in the Ballon d’Or and comes into the World Cup in great form with his club. De Bruyne has 93 games for Belgium with only 25 goals, but he provides so many assists. It’s no surprise to see him as the favorite for most assists in the World Cup. When at his best, as any Man City supporter will tell you, he can be unstoppable and can win a game single-handed.

Thibaut Courtois

A La Liga, Champions League and Super Cup winner, Courtois won mostly everything he could win last year and will hope to continue that winning feeling with his national team. At Real Madrid, he has been in tremendous form with perhaps the highlight being his breathtaking performance against Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris. That night, he single-handedly kept the Reds at bay with save after save. A repeat of that performance will make him a contender for the Golden Glove market, e.g., the best goalie of the tournament. Belgium tend to let goals in, so Courtois playing at the top of his game is even more important.

Prediction

Belgium will win the group in what I expect to be one of the most entertaining in the whole tournament. I would expect goals in Belgium matches and over 2.5 bettors should enjoy their group fixtures.

Croatia

2018 World Cup: Losing Finalists 

Croatia surprised many handicappers at the 2018 World Cup by reaching the final, but not me. Four years ago, Croatia was my pre-tournament tip on VSiN at 66-1.

Heading into Qatar, Croatia is unbeaten in five matches and ranked No. 12 in the FIFA rankings. That might seem high, considering the team arrives in form and was a World Cup finalist. But players such Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric are past their best. Those two Croatia legends are playing in what will certainly be their last World Cup, and I am not expecting too much from Croatia this time around.

Key Players

Luka Modric

Even at 37, he is still one of the best midfielders in the world and played a key role in the La Liga and Champions League run for Real Madrid last season. His experience of playing top-level football was invaluable for Madrid and his national team will look to draw on it here.

For his nation to go deep, the three-time Spanish champion must perform at his best and that is a big ask.

Prediction

This is an aging Croatia team that certainly peaked at the last World Cup. I don’t expect anywhere near the same from them four years on, and I am betting them not to get out of Group F. Despite my fond memories of them in 2018, realism is everything and I think this is a World Cup too far for this team.

Canada

Canada heads into this World Cup not in the best of form. The team has only won two of their last seven games, but I still believe it can go well in Qatar.

The Canadians will play in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, only the second time ever. They have been rewarded with a tough Group!

Despite that, Canada, which will host the 2026 World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico, is one to keep in mind on match bets. Every World Cup has its surprises and Canada can be one such team.

Key Player

Alphonso Davies

The Bayern Munich fullback is one of the fastest and most electric players in the world. The ground he can make up on others either to catch them defensively or go past them offensively can be breathtaking.

Davies has only played 34 times for Canada, but has scored 12 times with him playing in a more attacking role for his national team than the German champions. His pace can be more effective offensively in this role for the national team.

The 21-year-old is easily Canada’s best player and is a fright to any defender when in full throttle. The leaky Belgium defense and the aging Croatia rearguard should be having nightmares about that right now.

Prediction

I believe Canada will surprise many at this World Cup and with Croatia vulnerable at these championships the Canadians look the most likely to capitalize. I look for Canada to qualify through to the knockout stages. Many will see this group as an easy qualification for Croatia, but I take Canada to provide a shock and send the Croatians home.

Morocco

2018 World Cup: Group Stage 

Morocco arrives here after defeating mighty Botswana to qualify for the World Cup. It is Morocco’s sixth time, an impressive achievement but it faces tough opposition in Group F. Though its players will be comfortable in the humid conditions in the desert, this is still a big step up and I can’t see them qualifying. 

Key Player

Achraf Hakimi

Hakimi is a key player for both his club and country and has appeared 53 times for Morocco with eight goals. He plays with PSG in France, so he will not be intimidated by anybody. Hakimi was Morocco’s main man at the Africa Cup of Nations, and he can be deadly from set-pieces. He could be someone to watch out for at big odds in anytime goalscorer markets. On his day, he is a threat to any team and he will need to fire on all cylinders in this World Cup.

Prediction

Morocco will have its moments, but still finish at the bottom in what I expect to be a close and exciting group with everybody taking points off each other.

Best bets

Croatia not to qualify +150

Canada to qualify +300

Morocco to finish bottom +136

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