Germany and Spain target deep runs in Qatar

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Two former champions are in action on Wednesday, November 23, as Germany and Spain kick off their World Cup Group E campaigns in Al Rayyan and Doha respectively.
The day's football gets underway with a Group F encounter between Morocco and 2018 runners-up Croatia at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
The Atlas Lions have only made it out of the group stages once in five previous attempts, which came at Mexico '86 when they were eliminated in the last 16. Walid Regragui's side have only lost once since qualifying for the global showpiece via the playoffs and are unbeaten in their last five games.
The Vatreni are looking to go one step further in Qatar after losing to France in the 2018 final and their form going into the tournament is impressive, having won their last five matches in a row and suffering just one defeat in 2022.
Germany made a shock exit at the group stages four years ago as defending champions and they'll be determined to bounce back in Qatar, starting with their Group E opener against Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Die Mannschaft have only been beaten once this year, although they experienced a disappointing UEFA Nations League campaign after winning just one of their six games to finish third in Group 3.
Hansi Flick's side wrapped up their preparations with a 1-0 victory over Oman on November 16 and the head coach played down the sub-standard performance in Muscat, claiming he used the friendly to acclimatise his players to the conditions they will face in Qatar. 
"We deliberately chose this game here to get used to the temperatures," Flick said. "We've only trained one day and wanted to see one or two more here.
"Others have seen the game as a break and as regeneration, it's all okay. The game has served its purpose."
Spain begin their quest for a second World Cup title against Costa Rica at the Al Thumama Stadium.
La Furia Roja, like Germany, followed up their maiden success in 2010 by failing to progress beyond the group stages at Brazil 2014. Luis Enrique took charge after their elimination in the round of 16 four years ago and guided the Spanish to the Euro 2020 semi-finals and the 2021 UEFA Nations League final.
Spain have only lost once in 2022 and qualified for this season's UEFA Nations League semi-finals as Group 2 winners, having recorded three victories in their six games.

Alvaro Morata
Image copyright: Getty Images

Ansu Fati is hoping to make his mark in Qatar after scraping into Enrique's final squad at the last minute and the head coach is keen to leave the Barcelona forward's injury problems in the past.
"Let's stop referring to Ansu as a player who has overcome an injury," Enrique insisted. "I've seen he is better, quite a bit better, than the last time he came [to the squad].
"A professional player gets injured and then recovers. What we have to recover is his level. Seeing him in training, he's got it."
Los Ticos surprised many when they reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014 following group-stages exits in 2002 and 2006. The Central Americans will be looking for an improved performance this time around after a disappointing 2018 World Cup, where they finished 29th out of the 32 teams.
Luis Fernando Suarez's side had to navigate the inter-confederation play-offs to qualify for the 2022 edition at the expense of New Zealand and are unbeaten in their last three matches since then.
Belgium's golden generation will have one final chance to conquer the world, starting with Canada at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.
The Red Devils came close in 2018 when they fell at the penultimate hurdle to finish third, having reached the quarter-finals four years earlier in Brazil. Roberto Martinez's side won three of their six games in the UEFA Nations League to finish runners-up  in Group 4 behind an impressive Netherlands team, who beat them twice.
Les Rouges took the CONCACAF region by storm to win their qualifying group ahead of Mexico and the United States to book their ticket to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. The North Americans finished last at Mexico '86 and will be hoping to make a better impression in Qatar. 

World Cup fixtures - Wednesday, November 23

12h00: Morocco v Croatia
15h00: Germany v Japan
18h00: Spain v Costa Rica
21h00: Belgium v Canada

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Published: 11/18/2022