Sun | Feb 5, 2023

‘Brazil, France and Spain are the main contenders’

Local coaches predict early exits for fancied teams Belgium, Argentina and Germany

Published:Tuesday | November 29, 2022 | 12:11 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Frenchman Kylian Mbappe celebrates at the end of the World Cup Group D  match between France and Denmark, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar last Saturday.
Frenchman Kylian Mbappe celebrates at the end of the World Cup Group D match between France and Denmark, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar last Saturday.
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Price
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With two rounds of matches completed most of the groups at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar are evenly poised with a number of teams, including some tournament favourites, in danger of an early exit. Three fancied countries have already advanced...

With two rounds of matches completed most of the groups at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar are evenly poised with a number of teams, including some tournament favourites, in danger of an early exit.

Three fancied countries have already advanced to the round of 16, favourites Brazil from Group G, defending champions France (Group D) and Portugal (Group H). Two countries, Canada and hosts Qatar, have been eliminated while six teams now at the bottom of their groups can advance with good results over the next four days.

Local coaches Calvert Fitzgerald and Andrew Price are convinced that world number two ranked Belgium will make an early exit, while Bradley Stewart expects former champions Argentina and Germany to drop out at the group stage.

All three believe that France, Brazil and Spain are now the main contenders for the title.

Fitzgerald, a former Waterhouse FC coach, said the Belgian team is too old and out of form and that Croatia will be too good for them in their last game on Thursday.

Croatia, four points, lead Group F on goal difference ahead of Morocco who are also on four while Belgium have three.

“The number two ranked team in the world, Belgium, I think are in danger of missing out on the top 16. I do not think you can just turn around form that quickly and they have not been playing well,” Fitzgerald said.

“Belgium’s team is old at the back and they do not have the pace for going forward, so because they are vulnerable on the break, they have to play a lot deeper and it takes away from their compactness going forward.”

Price also thinks the Belgians are in a spot of bother.

“The top team I have the most doubt about is Belgium. I do not think they have the drive and intensity to beat Croatia. I expect it to be very difficult for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, former national assistant coach Stewart does not think perennial contenders Germany and Argentina will progress any further.

Argentina (three points) play Group C leaders Poland (four) tomorrow and require a win to seal their passage to the next round. A draw could be enough if Saudi Arabia (three) and Mexico also draw as Argentina have the best goal difference of the three.

“Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia. Since then they won a game and are on three points but if they do not win the last game, they could be in big problems,” Stewart said.

“That (Poland game) is going to be a very tough because Poland are a competitive unit. Having (Robert) Lewandowski makes them a goalscoring threat. Mexico don’t have much left in the tank after not winning a game, and Saudi Arabia will be highly motivated,” he added.

Stewart also believes the Germans, who are at the bottom of Group E on one point, have a serious issue as well.

“They lost their first game to Japan and drew against Spain, so they have only one point with one match to go. If they do not win the next game against Costa Rica they are going to be out. But Costa Rica have a chance to go forward if they beat Germany,” he pointed out.

He also expects Japan to get something from their game against Spain.

“It depends on what Japan determine, whether or not they are going to play a defensive game and set up a block that allows them (Spain) to make as many passes in their own half.

“The Japanese have very quick players and will try and break behind with speed. So on that basis there is a higher probability that they are going to draw and Germany will be out.”

Stewart has selected France to successfully defend their title.

“I am in favour of the French team,” Stewart admitted. “Even though they would have lost some important players, they have had adequate replacements and Kylian Mbappe has shown that his first World Cup was not a flash in the pan.”

“Spain, France and Brazil all look well but you cannot leave out a team with Lionel Messi, because of the quality he possesses. If he can step up in his game, then you can’t write them off,” he stated.

Price is expecting the Enner Valencia-led Ecuador to make it out of Group A and create a stir.

“The teams looking the best so far are France, Spain, Brazil and Ecuador,” Price said. “Ecuador (second in Group A behind the Netherlands) have done all they have been asked to do so far. They only need a draw today against Senegal (three points) to advance and I expect them to cause some trouble in the next round if they advance.”

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com