PREVIEW | We are not in crisis: Belgium’s Timothy Castagne

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Belgium’s Timothy Castagne said on Wednesday the team was not in crisis after two lackluster performances in the World Cup group stage that has prompted introspection ahead of a must-win match against Croatia to reach the knockout stage.

Ranked second in the world, Belgium prevailed 1-0 over Canada but were vastly outplayed, and suffered an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Morocco in their subsequent Group F match.

Belgium will almost certainly have to beat Croatia on Thursday to advance to the last 16. A draw for Croatia will be enough to see them into the knockout, but Belgium will then be relying on Canada defeating Morocco by three goals to stand a chance to progress.

Belgian players have publicly admitted they were disappointed with their showing in Qatar and said that frank words had been exchanged amongst them at a team meeting following their loss to Morocco on Sunday.

The meeting sparked speculation of a rift in the team, which lost to eventual champions France in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

Manager Roberto Martinez said pressure had gotten the best of his players after they finished third in 2018. He said they were now focused on enjoying their match and playing fearlessly against the 2018 runners-up.

Rumors of Belgium’s demise are greatly exaggerated, Croatia’s head coach Zlatko Dalic said as he prepares his side for Thursday’s showdown.

Croatia drew with Tunisia in their opener but hit top form in a 4-1 defeat of Canada, leaving them in good shape going into the clash at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Dalic has ruled out any notion that Croatia would be happy to play for a draw.

Belgium has so far been without their powerhouse striker Romelu Lukaku but he is expected to be back on Thursday which could spell bad news for Croatia’s defense.