Canada return to World Cup after 36-year absence, and four highlights in Qatar the other day | CNN



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Some of football’s biggest names – notably Croatia’s Luka Modrić and Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne – are set to begin their World Cup campaigns on Wednesday, while the decade-long wait is almost over for Canadian fans as their team contest their tournament arc for the first time on 36 Years.

We’ve already seen some of the game’s young stars who lit up the tournament – Cody Gakpo for the Netherlands, Timothy Weah, who came home for the United States men’s national team, and Jude Bellingham, who scored for England.

Germany’s Jamal Musiala and Spain’s Pedri, along with many other young talents, will also demonstrate their skills on Wednesday.

But the first game of the day at Al Bayt Stadium is all about experience as Croatia, finalists of the 2018 World Cup and one of the older teams in the tournament, play Morocco.

The cunning midfield of Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović will look to dominate the game against a Moroccan side under recently appointed head coach Walid Regragui.

Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech and dynamic full-backs Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui could pose problems for aging Croatia with their pace and movement.

The 2014 German champions meet Japan in Group E at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Although Germany have had their fair share of ups and downs since winning Brazil eight years ago, their squad in Qatar is chock-full of talent, mostly from German giants Bayern Munich.

And with former Bayern coach Hansi Flick, it’s perhaps no surprise that the likes of Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka have found success lately.

But Germany’s breakthrough player could be Musiala, who, after becoming a mainstay in the Bayern team this season, could be the country’s leading man in Qatar.

Germany meets a Japanese team full of names known to 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 is a well-organized team full of established players.

With 2010 world champions Spain in the same group – the 2010 world champions face Costa Rica at Al Thumama Stadium later on Wednesday – three points will be crucial for either side.

Musiala smiles during a news conference November 21, 2022 in Al Ruwais, Qatar.

Like Germany, Spain have had a few lean years since winning the World Cup in South Africa and are relying on a mix of young and old guard in Qatar.

The team’s likely midfield will consist of 19-year-old Pedri, 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-finals at the European Championships .

For Costa Rica, it’s one last cheer for some of the country’s legendary players. Captain Bryan Ruiz, 37, will lead the team while experienced Celso Borges and Keylor Navas could feature in their final World Cup.

Pedri (left) and Yeremy Pino (right) attend a training session at Qatar University in Doha on November 21, 2022.

The final match will take place at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, where world No. 2 Belgium meet Canada.

Like Costa Rica, Belgium’s election campaign in Qatar is seen as a last resort for the country’s so-called “golden generation”.

Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens, who have made European football shine for years, are all in their 30s and could be at their last World Cup. Striker Romelu Lukaku is likely to miss Belgium’s first two group games with a hamstring injury.

Belgium’s results in major tournaments have not been overwhelming given the talent at their disposal, their shock 2016 European Championship quarter-final defeat by Wales being particularly frustrating.

So, with one last shot at glory, Belgium begin against a side from Canada who are in their second World Cup appearance.

Canada ended its 36-year drought to compete in a World Cup when it qualified earlier this year. And behind the exuberance and excellence of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David in attack, a threat could emerge for any team.

At the start of the opening game, midfielder Jonathan Osorio said his team believed they could shock Belgium.

“We want to show that we are a footballing nation, that we can compete with the best in the world,” Osorio said, according to Reuters.

“We want to surprise people because I think people still see us as outsiders. “It’s the World Cup, they should just be happy to be here.” But that’s not our mentality.”

Morocco vs. Croatia: 5 p.m. ET

Germany vs. Japan: 8 p.m. ET

Spain vs. Costa Rica: 11 a.m. ET

Belgium vs Canada: 2pm ET

US: Fox Sports

UK: BBC or ITV

Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC

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