• “We have the quality to go a long way,” said Jamal Musiala. “We go in with the mindset to win the title. We believe in it and are all eager for it to start now.”
• Belgium finished third in Russia, two years ago, but failed to catch fire in the European Championship in 2021 and there is very much a feeling this is the last chance of glory for the current generation of players.
The World Cup finals are now in full swing with four games every day and hardly time to draw breath. So here are some things to look out for when Groups E and F get underway on Wednesday.
1. A new record for Spain?
At some moment in this World Cup a Spanish player is likely to set a new record as the country’s youngest every goal-scorer in the finals stage.
Fernando Torres currently holds the record, but he was 22 years old, when he opened his World Cup account in 2006 and there are plenty of candidates to beat that in Qatar.
Ansu Fati, Nico Williams, Pedri, Gavi, Yeremi Pino and even defenders Eric Garcia and Alejandro Balde could all break the record, and you would have to be brave to bet against at least one of them netting in Qatar.
2. Germany looks to bury memories of 2018
Germany’s exit at the group stage in 2018 was one of the big surprises on the last World Cup finals, but in typical style the Germans set about righting that error, becoming the first country to qualify for Qatar, with only England scoring more goals in qualifying.
“We have the quality to go a long way,” said Jamal Musiala. “We go in with the mindset to win the title. We believe in it and are all eager for it to start now.”
Germany has reached at least the semifinals in the other four tournaments this century, and they will be keen to get back on track against a Japanese side that is looking to reach the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups, despite just one win in their last 8 matches in the finals stage.
3. Last chance for Belgium’s golden generation?
Belgium finished third in Russia, two years ago, but failed to catch fire in the European Championship in 2021 and there is very much a feeling this is the last chance of glory for the current generation of players.
Coach Roberto Martinez has taken a risk on the fitness of Romelu Lukaku, while Eden Hazard has spent most of the season on the bench at Real Madrid, so a lot of responsibility rests with Kevin de Bruyne against the Canadians.
Canada is unfancied, but that means they have nothing to lose and it would be an error to underestimate Jonathan David, who has nine goals and three assists for Lille, while Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies’ qualities are also well-known.
4. Atlas Lions ready to roar?
Obviously much of the attention will be on 2018’s beaten finalists, Croatia and veteran midfield ace, Luka Modric, but it would be a brave fan or pundit, who dismisses Morocco’s chances.
Goalkeeper Yassine Bonnou is a star for Sevilla in LaLiga and his clubmate, Youssef En-Neysri is a handful in attack, while Barcelona winger, Ez Abde, is having a great season with Osasuna.
Regarding the defenders, Achraf Hakimi is starring for PSG and Bayern’s Noussair Mazraoui and captain Romain Saiss are all top players, to name but a few. Don’t be surprised if Morocco roars against Croatia on Wednesday.