A look at Canada's Group F opposition at the World Cup in Qatar

After impressing against regional competition in qualifying for its first World Cup since 1986, Canada now faces a string of next-level tests in Qatar, starting with No. 2 Belgium. Here's a look at Canada's Group F opposition:


BELGIUM (Nov. 23, 2 p.m. ET)

World Ranking: No. 2.

Nickname: Red Devils.

Manager: Roberto Martinez, since March 2016.

Past Meetings With Canada: Belgium won 2-0 in their only previous meeting, in June 1989 in Ottawa.

World Cup Pedigree: This is Belgium's 14th trip to the World Cup, highlighted by a third-place finish in 2018 and fourth in 1986.

Players to Watch: Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is a game-changer, with exquisite vision and the talent to make what he sees happen. De Bruyne's latest contract, which will keep him at Man City through 2025, pays him some $632,000 a week, according to England's Daily Mirror. Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois won the Yashin Trophy as best goalkeeper in 2022 and earned the Golden Glove Award as the top 'keeper at the 2018 World Cup.

 

CROATIA (Nov. 27, 11 a.m. ET)

World Ranking: No. 12.

Nickname: The Vatreni (The Fiery Ones) or the Kockasti (The Checkered Ones).

Manager: Zlatko Dalic, since October 2017.

Past Meetings With Canada: None.

World Cup Pedigree: This is Croatia's sixth trip to the tournament. It was runner-up to France in 2018 and third in 1998.

Players to Watch: At 37, Luka Modric still pulls the strings in midfield. The Real Madrid star won the Golden Ball as the top player at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That same year he won the Ballon d'Or, Best FIFA Men's Player and UEFA Player of the Year awards in 2018. Tottenham winger Ivan Perisic ran 72.5 kilometres at the 2018 World Cup, leading all players, according to FIFA.

 

MOROCCO (Dec. 1, 10 a.m. ET)

World Ranking: No. 22.

Nickname: The Atlas Lions.

Manager: Walid Regragui, since August 2022.

Past Meetings With Canada: None.

World Cup Pedigree: This is Morocco's sixth trip to the tournament. Its best showing was reaching the round of 16 in 1986.

Players to Watch: Paris Saint-Germain wingback Achraf Hakimi made his national team debut at 17 years 11 months seven days, becoming the second-youngest player to have represented Morocco. Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was born in Montreal but moved to Morocco at an early age. The Sevilla 'keeper won the Zamora Trophy in September as the best goalkeeper in Spain's La Liga, conceding just 24 goals in 31 matches.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly had Luka Modric winning the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup instead of the Golden Ball.