World Cup: Daily predictions – Lukaku to return, Musiala will create and Morata is on the goal march

World Cup Groups E and F come to a conclusion on Thursday, and plenty remains up in the air.

Germany must beat Costa Rica to get out of Group E, and hope that Japan do not spring a surprise against Spain.

Before that, Belgium must come back from the brink of an early exit by overcoming Croatia, who only need a point to ensure progress to the last 16.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform looks ahead to more enthralling action from Qatar.

All times local.

Canada v Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium (1800)

Morocco have never lost in three previous meetings with Canada in all competitions (W2 D1), most recently a 4-0 friendly win in October 2016.

As well as scoring their only goal at this year’s World Cup, Alphonso Davies leads all Canada players for total ball carry distance (473 metres) and chances created (five).

Morocco have kept a clean sheet in each of their last six games in all competitions, now going 622 minutes without conceding since Lyle Foster’s strike for South Africa in June. Should they keep a clean sheet in this game, they will be the first African side not to concede a goal in their first three matches at a single World Cup.

Player Prediction – Hakim Ziyech to score or assist:  Morocco playmaker Ziyech teed up Zakaria Aboukhlal's goal in the 2-0 win over Belgium, with that assist one of two chances created by the Chelsea man. Ziyech also had two attempts, with one of those hitting the target, while he scored twice in Morocco's big win over Canada when the teams last met.

Best Bet – Canada to have 10+ shots:  Despite sitting bottom of Group F with no points, Canada have attempted 30 shots across their two matches, which is 11 more than any other side in the group. Nonetheless, only five of those shots have been on target, which is the fewest in the group.

Croatia v Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium (1800)

A point would be enough for Croatia to progress from Group F, but a defeat would leave them needing a favour from Canada in the other game. There is cause for concern for the 2018 runners-up, as Belgium have won their last two meetings with Croatia.

Ivan Perisic has been directly involved in 16 goals at the World Cup and Euros combined (nine goals, seven assists), six more than any other Croatia player. Against Canada, Perisic, became the first Croatia player to provide two assists in a single major tournament match.

Belgium have underperformed in Qatar, with the Red Devils scoring just one goal from a total of 19 shots, a conversion rate of just five per cent – their lowest such rate in a single edition of the World Cup since 1982 (three per cent – three goals from 93 shots).

Player Prediction – Romelu Lukaku to start and score:  Romelu Lukaku did not start in either of the opening two games due to fitness concerns but Roberto Martinez will have to role the dice with Belgium's record goalscorer, who has netted all three of the Red Devils' goals across their last two meetings with Croatia.

Best Bet – Croatia to concede first but avoid defeat: Croatia have avoided defeat in four of the last five World Cup games in which they conceded the first goal (W2 D2), with all five matches coming since the start of the 2018 edition. Indeed, they came from behind to thrash Canada 4-1 in their last fixture.

Costa Rica v Germany – Al Bayt (2200)

The pressure will all be on Germany in Al Khor, though history is on their side for this game, as they have won six of their eight World Cup matches against CONCACAF nations (D1 L1).

Costa Rica have scored fewer goals (one), attempted fewer shots (four), registered fewer shots on target (one) and have the lowest expected goals total (0.11) of the four teams in Group E.

Germany have drawn six of their last 10 games in all competitions, with five of those being 1-1, while four of Costa Rica's last six World Cup games against European nations have finished level.

Player Prediction – Jamal Musiala to assist:  Jamal Musiala has created five chances for Germany across his two World Cup appearances, which ranks him top in the squad alongside David Raum, while he assisted Niclas Fullkrug's equaliser against Spain.

Best Bet – Over 10 corners: Each of Germany's last three games have seen 10 or more corners.

Jamal Musiala has been Germany's standout performer in Qatar
Jamal Musiala has been Germany's standout performer in Qatar

Japan v Spain – Khalifa International Stadium (2200)

Spain have won their final group game in eight of their last nine participations in the World Cup, with the exception being a 2-2 draw with Morocco last time out in 2018.

Japan have conceded one goal in both of their games at the 2022 World Cup. Against Germany on MD1, they faced 26 shots, nine on target and had an xGA of 3.1, while against Costa Rica last time out, they conceded the same amount despite facing only four shots, one on target and having an xG against of 0.1.

No player has had more shots (seven) or created more chances (two) for Japan at the 2022 World Cup than Takuma Asano.

Player Prediction – Alvaro Morata to score anytime:  Alvaro Morata has scored in both of his appearances for Spain at the 2022 World Cup, with both goals coming as a substitute. Only one player has ever scored in his first three World Cup appearances for Spain, with Telmo Zarra doing so in 1950.

Best Bet – Spain to win or draw:  Spain have never lost in five previous World Cup matches against Asian opposition (W3 D2), though they were eliminated via penalties by South Korea in 2002 following one of those draws. La Roja won their only previous meeting with Japan in all competitions, winning a friendly match 1-0 in April 2001.