Heading into the final games, Group F is very close between Croatia, Morocco, and Belgium for qualification. A draw would be enough to see Croatia progress into the last 16, but for Belgium the equation probably means having to win this match to avoid an early World Cup exit.
Roberto Martínez’s men have been rather underwhelming at this World Cup and desperately need to put in a good performance here at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
Using stats from World Cup qualifying, combined with their first two runouts in the World Cup, I’ve covered xG, goals, shots, corners and cards. Crack down on the data alongside my Stats Pack Guide, so you can delve deep into the bookie markets for a winning bet builder.
Luka Modric is on a yellow card and isn’t a spring chicken anymore at the age of 37. Despite that he hasn’t been rested here but it’s a big game.
The only other Croatian player on a yellow card is centre back Dejan Lovren.
Belgium will be forced into at least one change with Amadou Onana suspended. Youri Tielemans will probably come into the side to replace him.
Croatia average 2.08 goals per game which correlates closely to their xG of 2.35. They are a legitimately strong attacking unit and also average 16.50 shots per match, of which 6.42 are on target.
At the other end, Croatia have only conceded a measly 0.42 goals per match which is mighty impressive. They average less than 2.0 shots against per 90 mins which is the cornerstone to their success.
They are relatively well behaved, only picking up 1.50 cards per 90 mins. They don’t draw that many cards from the opposition with 1.58 per game.
Belgium average 2.60 goals per game but have only scored one goal at this World Cup so far. Their xG of 1.96 might suggest an overachievement. They fire over 15 shots per match but only 6.28 on target.
Belgium only concede 0.80 goals per game but do tend to concede a lot of shots, nearly 10 per game. Their corners for stat is nothing to shout about, and they don’t tend to concede too many either.
This Belgian side under Roberto Martinez are quite well disciplined, only picking up 1.60 cards per game. It is a surprise considering the technical excellence of this Belgian side that they only draw 1.30 cards per game from their opposition, however.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
There are several Croatian players who have a high number of shots per 90 mins. Marko Livaja came into the side vs Canada and fires in 4.19 per 90 mins, with a decent 2.26 SOT. Kramaric is another who likes to shoot with 4.05 per 90 mins at a respectable enough accuracy rate of 1.65 per match.
Perisic on the left wing averages 3.50 shots per 90 mins but is not as accurate, only converting that into 1.25 SOT. Potential substitutes Orsic & Vlasic all average over 3 shots per 90 mins, and could be worth keeping an eye on if they are to make an appearance.
If Romelu Lukaku does start, then I think we can expect him to have his shooting boots on. He averages 4.47 shots per 90 mins with a respectable 2.11 SOT.
Whoever starts upfront for Belgium will be firing. Michy Batshuayi averages 3.82 shots per 90 mins with 1.76 SOT. Midfielders Carrasco and De Bruyne both average more than 2.50 shots per game but have relatively poor SOT stats.
Player Goals and Assists
Kramaric has four goals and three assists for Croatia. Along with Perisic, those are the two standout players in the ranks. Luka Modric has scored three goals and supplied two assists in just nine starts.
The striker expected to start upfront, Marko Livaja has netted 3 goals in nine appearances. Rennes midfielder Lovro Majer could be one to watch off the bench with three goals in just four appearances.
Romelu Lukaku leads the scoring charts for Belgium with 5 goals in 5 appearances. Vanaken has the most assists but isn’t expected to start.
Kevin De Bruyne hasn’t had a particularly good World Cup and only has two assists in six starts. No other Belgian has more than one assist.
It is noticeable how clean of a team Croatia are. Only two players, Barisic and Kovacic, have two yellow cards on this list.
Brozovic has one yellow cards in 11 starts and has been a popular selection by many to pick up a card in this World Cup. He has so far let down his card backers though, somehow slipping through the net vs Morocco despite having three fouls. He does average 1.54 fouls per 90 mins and is a major candidate to go into the book.
Luka Modric averages 1.41 fouls per game but is on a yellow card so might be operating more cautiously.
Eden Hazard is the obvious player for Belgium who gets fouled the most, on average 4.36 times per 90 mins. This makes sense due to his excellent technical skill and ability to win one on one duels. He is elusive and will give the Croatian fullbacks plenty of problems, especially Juranovic.
Youri Tielemans should come into the team and gets fouled on average 1.63 times per 90 mins. At left wing back Yannick Carrasco gets fouled nearly 2 times per match, whilst at centre back Jan Vertonghen will likely get into a tussle with Kramaric.
Matchups to watch
Marcelo Brozovic vs Youri Tielemans
Josip Juranovic vs Eden Hazard
Andre Kramaric vs Jan Vertonghen
No Belgium player has more than two cards on this list. Midfielder Amadou Onana has been the dirtiest player for them at this World Cup and picked up two yellow cards in the first two group games, resulting in his suspension.
Nobody else has more than 1.50 average fouls per 90 mins and it will be interesting to see if his replacement, Youri Tielemans, will also be susceptible to cards and fouls in this Belgium system.
Thomas Meunier doesn’t appear on this list, but he was carded after coming on as a substitute against Canada, and was fortunate to escape a booking for a subsequent two fouls against Morocco. He’s well worth keeping an eye on in the fouls department.
Luka Modric is an experienced campaigner, and it is no surprise to see him draw more fouls than any other Croatian player at 1.86 per 90 mins. Both Brozovic and Kovacic in midfield also attract fouls.
Right back Juranovic gets fouled 1.60 times per 90 mins, but this is a match where he is more likely to foul someone himself. Sturdy and combative centre forward Marko Livaja isn’t just known for his goalscoring exploits. Expect him to rustle a few feathers amongst the Belgian back line.
Matchups to watch
Youri Tielemans vs Luka Modric
Axel Witsel vs Mateo Kovacic
Jan Vertonghen vs Marko Livaja