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November 23rd World Cup Slate

“Unexpected” might be the word of this World Cup. An unexpected location, with surprises (good-bye beer stands at the last minute), and unexpected times, like France and Australia playing at 11 PM local Qatari time.

That “unexpected” theme continued today, with a SHOCKING upset, where Saudi Arabia defeated perennial tournament favorite Argentina 2-1. Lionel Messi will need to be near-perfect throughout the rest of the group stage to get into the knockout rounds.

Let’s take a look at the slate of games on Wednesday to see if any shockers are coming our way tomorrow.

Morocco-Croatia

Our first game of the day in Group F is between Morocco and Croatia. Croatia is coming off of a final in 2018 led by Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. Modric is playing in his last World Cup and is bridging the gap with the new generation of Croatian soccer. Modric’s run with the national team has resulted in a World Cup final appearance, and a semi-final appearance.

Morocco has been a competitive side of the continent of Africa for years. It’s their sixth appearance in the World Cup ever, but the Moroccans haven’t made it past the group stage since 1986. They are led by Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech.

Germany-Japan

Die Mannschaft is coming into World Cup 2022 with a chip on their shoulder. The German team has been very successful in World Cup play in the 21st century, culminating in being the first European team to win a South American World Cup in 2014. They followed that up in 2018 with a shocking group stage exit. The Germans have returned with a restocked roster, and have no intention of exiting in the group stage as they did in Russia.

Japan has appeared in seven straight World Cups, with 3 rounds of 16 appearances. Their last World Cup match was a heartbreaking loss to Belgium in the knockout round in extra time. Former Liverpool striker Takumi Minamino has been their talisman, scoring ten goals and tallying four assists throughout qualifying.

Spain-Costa Rica

The Spaniards haven’t found their form since their last World Cup victory in 2010. They were eliminated in the group stages in 2014 and suffered a disappointing knockout loss to 2018 hosts Russia. They have a deep roster led by the Barcelona midfield and will hope to improve on previous showings.

Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals in 2014, but only started making the World Cup regularly in 1990. They will most definitely be outmatched by Spain’s talent, and are in a loaded group with Germany, Japan, and Spain.

Belgium-Canada

Belgium’s “Golden Generation” is on its last legs. Belgium has hovered around the top of the FIFA rankings since 2014, but this will be the last chance for their group to put together a run for the ages. They’ll have to get it started without Romelu Lukaku, who is carrying over an injury from club football that will keep him out of the first two games.

Canada hasn’t made a World Cup since 1986. It was an embarrassing appearance where they didn’t even get on the scoresheet. They will look forward to making better on this appearance led by their own “Golden Generation”.

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