Croatia face Belgium on Thursday afternoon in a meeting between two medallists from the 2018 World Cup.
Both sides may have reached the semi-finals in Russia but a passage to the round of 16 in Qatar is not certain for either nation heading into the final game of Group F.
Zlatko Dalic’s runners-up are better placed after victory against Canada took them to four points; a draw would send Croatia through. Belgium’s position is more precarious in the wake of a limp loss to Morocco.
Roberto Martinez’s side could theoretically qualify with one more point but only if winless Canada defeat Morocco by four or more goals in the other group game. A win would confirm Belgium’s qualification and leave Croatia sweating over Morocco’s result.
Here’s everything you need to know about a devilishly poised encounter.
Croatia vs Belgium H2H Results (All Time)
Current Form (Last Five Games)
Croatia team news
Nikola Vlasic started Croatia’s opener against Morocco but was removed with a calf problem at half-time. The West Ham loanee recovered to make the bench against Canada but his replacement, Marko Livaja, delivered a strong argument to retain his starting berth with a crisply struck goal.
The arrival of a traditional striker shifted Andrej Kramaric to the right wing, where he scored twice on Sunday afternoon.
Croatia Starting 11 (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic.
Bench: Grbic, Ivusic, Erlic, Vida, Sutalo, Barisic, Stanisic, Jakic, Sucic, Majer, Osric, Pasalic, Petkovic, Budimir, Vlasic.
Belgium team news
Romelu Lukaku was deemed fit enough to come on for the final ten minutes of Belgium’s surprise defeat to Morocco. The Inter striker hasn’t started a match for club or country since August and may still be short of the fitness required to lead the line. However, with another four days to continue his recovery, Lukaku could make a longer cameo at least.
Amadou Onana will play no part after collecting a second, suspension-inducing booking against the Atlas Lions.
Belgium Starting 11 (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Trossard; De Bruyne, E Hazard; Batshuayi.
Bench: Casteels, Mignolet, Debast, Faes, Theate, Dendoncker, Vanaken, De Ketelaere, T Hazard, Carrasco, Doku, Lukaku, Mertens, Openda.
There are a lot of familiar faces in both squads from the podium finishes in 2018 but Belgium seem to be anchored more firmly in the past. Ten players that featured in their semi-final defeat to France four-and-a-half years ago have already appeared this winter.
Kevin De Bruyne‘s pre-tournament admission that his nation has “no chance” of winning the World Cup because “we’re too old” has been painfully apparent in a pair of listless performances.
Martinez pledged: “We will play to win against Croatia and that will be the start of us at this World Cup.” However, if they produce the same lumbering display on Thursday, it will be the end of Belgium at this World Cup.
Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Belgium
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