Some of football’s greatest Name – notably Croatia’s Luka Modric and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne – will make their World Cup debuts. Campaigns On Wednesday, the decades-long wait for Canadian fans is almost over as their team bows out in the tournament for the first time in 36 years.
We’ve already seen some of the game’s young stars light up the tournament – Cody Gakpo for the Netherlands, Timothy Weah for the United States Men’s National Team and Jude Bellingham scoring for England.
Along with Germany’s Jamal Musiala and Spain’s Padre, other young talents will also showcase their skills on Wednesday.
But in the first match of the day, at Albeit Stadium, it will be all about experience as Croatia, the 2018 World Cup finalists and one of the tournament’s oldest teams, play Morocco.
A crafty midfield of Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović will aim to dominate the game against the Moroccan side under recently appointed head coach Walid Regergui.
Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech and dynamic full-backs Achraf Hakimi and Nosir Mazrawi, with their pace and movement, could cause problems for the aging Croatian.
2014 champions Germany will face Japan in Group E at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Although Germany have had some ups and downs since their victory in Brazil eight years ago, their squad in Qatar is full of talent, particularly from German giants Bayern Munich.
And with former Bayern coach Hansi Flick in charge, it’s perhaps no surprise that the likes of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka have flourished recently.
But Germany’s breakout player could be Musyala, who could become the country’s leading player in Qatar after becoming a key player in Bayern’s squad this season.
Germany will face a Japan team that is loaded with names for fans around the world. From Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma and Monaco’s Takumi Minamino to Frieburg’s Ritsu Dōan and Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu, Japan are a well-organized team full of well-established players.
With 2010 World Cup winners Spain in the same group – the 2010 champions kick off against Costa Rica at El Thomama Stadium on Wednesday – the three points will be crucial for both sides.
Like Germany, Spain have had a lean few years since their World Cup victory in South Africa, and will rely on a mix of youth and older defenders to succeed in Qatar.
The team’s likely starting midfield will consist of 19-year-old Padre, 18-year-old Gavi and 34-year-old Sergio Busquets as Luis Enrique’s men look to go one step further than last year’s semi-final exit at the European Championship. .
For Costa Rica, this is the last hurray for some of the country’s legendary players. 37-year-old captain Brian Ruiz will lead the team while veterans Celso Borges and Keylor Navas could be making their final World Cup appearances.
The final match will be played at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in which world number 2 Belgium will face Canada.
Like Costa Rica, Belgium’s campaign in Qatar is seen as the last chance for the country’s so-called “golden generation”.
After years of lighting up European football, Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens are in their thirties and may be playing in their last World Cup. have been Striker Romelu Lukaku is likely to miss Belgium’s first two group matches with a hamstring injury.
Belgium’s results at major tournaments have been impressive, given the talent at its disposal, with the loss to Wales in the quarter-finals of the European Championship in 2016 being a particular disappointment.
So, with one final shot at glory, Belgium will start against a Canadian team making their second appearance at the World Cup.
Canada ended its 36-year drought to play in the World Cup when it qualified earlier this year. And, behind the enthusiasm and brilliance of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David in attack, could prove a threat to any team.
Heading into their opening game, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said his team believed it could shock Belgium.
“We want to show that we are a football nation, that we can compete with the best teams in the world,” Osorio said, according to Reuters.
“We want to surprise people because I think people still see us as underdogs. ‘It’s the World Cup, they should be happy to be here.’ But that’s not our mindset.”
Morocco vs. Croatia: 5 a.m. ET
Germany vs. Japan: 8 a.m. ET
Spain vs. Costa Rica: 11 a.m. ET
Belgium vs. Canada: 2 p.m. ET
US: Fox Sports
UK: BBC or ITV
Brazil: Sport TV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC