TCM Analysis: Croatia v Belgium

Croatia and Belgium fought it out in their final group game, the number 2 ranked team in the World needed a win to progress through to the knockout stages.

Dec 2nd 2022

Written by The Coaching Manual


Croatia: 1-4-3-3

Belgium 1-4-2-3-1

First Half Review

With it all to play for in the Group F finale, it was a last-chance saloon for Belgium with Croatia only needing a draw to qualify. Within 10 seconds the first chance of the game came from Perisic, striking the ball just wide of the goal. 

Croatia kept on the front foot, getting into the final third frequently and the energy paid off; or so they felt. A penalty was awarded to the Croatians after a foul on Kramarić from Carrasco, however, after a VAR review, an offside was given adding even more controversy to the system. 

It was clear what the Belgian game plan was, to contain and counter. This nearly came to fruition when De Bruyne, on the counter-attack, slid it in Mertens who missed well wide of the mark.

The first half finished as a non-event with both sides cancelling each other out. 

Croatia’s passing and support was excellent throughout the half and they looked to control the game with combination play.

Check out this session to practice passing and support.

Second Half Review

The second half had to improve, Lukaku was introduced at the half time, looking to give more impetus to the Belgium attack, something that was desperately needed. The chance of the half came from Lukaku, with a header at the back post into the hands of the Croatian Goalkeeper. Croatian answered straight back with Kovacic forcing a save from Courtois. 

Croatia changed gears, piling on the pressure and forcing 3 saves from Courtois in quick succession. Belgium quickly replied with some slick play and Lukaku hitting the near post for the ball to bounce out. Danger averted for the Croatians. De Bruyne, once again on the front foot, crossed for Lukaku who headed the ball over facing an open goal. 

Belgium looked to get the winner by throwing on almost every attacking threat they had at the Croatians. It nearly paid off when a Meunier shot deflected off Luakau’s knee to go narrowly wide of the post. It was once again Lukaku to have the final say on the game, with a T. Hazard cross floated over the top, Lukaku chested it back into the Goalkeeper's hands from 3 yards out. 

A Gvardiol last-ditch tackle prevented another goal for the Belgians saw Croatia go through to the round of 16 and The Red Devils going home after a disappointing campaign and, what seems like, a World Cup too many for this group of players. 

Though Lukaku’s finishing was much to be desired, Belgium's ability to get into critical areas was good.

In this article, check out where and what the critical areas are.

Specific Strategy


The midfield of Croatia is one of the best in the world with the quality of Kovacic and Balon d’Or winner Modric. The tempo and triangles they often set in the game were unbelievable. 

Coach your players on how to pass and move like the Croatians in this session.

Stats of the Game
Next game

Croatia will play Japan in the round of 16.

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