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How can Canada qualify for the World Cup Group of 16?

The last time Canada made the FIFA World Cup, the first Top Gun movie came out, Freddie Mercury and Queen appeared on stage for the final time and the original Super Mario Bros. was the highest-grossing video game in the U.S. It’s been a while.

Now that the Canadians are back, they don’t want to be just a footnote for the 2022 World Cup. They want to make an impact, a statement. Getting out of the group stage, something Canada wasn’t able to do in their only World Cup appearance in 1986, would do that.

So how can Canada qualify for the Group of 16 from Group F? First, let’s look at the odds here.

If you’re looking for more 2022 World Cup betting resources or odds, check out our World Cup odds and futures page or our soccer betting hub.

World Cup Group F Odds

World Cup Odds To Win Group F

Odds as of August 18 at BetOnline Sportsbook

World Cup Odds to Qualify From Group F

Odds as of August 18 at BetOnline Sportsbook

World Cup: How Can Canada Make Group of 16?

Three games. That’s it. Canada and the other 31 teams at the World Cup get three games to decide if they’re good enough to make it to the Group of 16. For Canada, group play begins on November 23 and ends on December 1:

  • Canada vs Belgium: Nov. 23, 2 p.m. ET
  • Canada vs Croatia: Nov. 27, 11 a.m. ET
  • Canada vs Morocco: Dec. 1, 10 a.m. ET

In those three games, Canada has to pick up enough points to finish at least second in the group to move on to the Group of 16. The traditional line of thought going into a World Cup for an underdog like Canada is to get four points in the group stage – go 1-1-1 and that should be enough. That’s not totally accurate.

Of the 33 teams that have compiled four points in the group stages since the 1994 World Cup, only 17 have qualified. So 48 percent of the teams don’t qualify if they pick up four points. It’s still possible to qualify with four points, but Canada would have to hope other results go their way. To really control their destiny and qualify, they’ll need at least five points.

Five points still does not guarantee qualification to the Group of 16, but of the 13 teams that have collected five points in the group stage, all of them actually qualified. So, how can Canada get five points? A win and two draws, you might say. Perfect, but where do they get those results?

Again, let’s look at the odds and matchups.

World Cup Canada Game 1 vs Belgium

Odds for Outcome in Canada vs Belgium
Canada To Lose-400
Canada To Win+1050

A win against Belgium seems unlikely with odds of that happening at +1050. Les Diables Rouges come into the World Cup with a ton of momentum. They placed third in the 2018 World Cup after a 1-0 loss to France in the semis. They won their third-place match against England 2-0, though.

Since securing that third-place finish in 2018, Belgium has gone 34-7-5 with a ridiculous +85 goal differential. Again, a win seems unlikely. But Canada doesn’t need a win here – they need at least a draw.

Since 2020, the Belgians have drawn against six times, playing Ivory Coast, Czechia, Greece, Wales (twice) and Ireland. Only Wales and Czechia have a higher FIFA ranking than Canada. So relatively weaker opponents have been able to get the exact outcome Canada is looking for. How did they do it?

Looking at each team’s opening formation, the most successful setup against Belgium (to get a draw) is the 3-4-3 formation. Both Ivory Coast and the Irish used it to pull out 1-1 and 2-2 draws, respectively. That’s precisely the formation that Canadian head coach John Herdman likes to use and has used to get Canada to this World Cup.

The odds of a draw are at +475, so a winning $100 bet on Canada pulling a single point from this contest would return a $475 profit.

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku holds the sixth-best World Cup Golden Boot odds at +1800.

World Cup Canada Game 2 vs Croatia

Odds for Outcome in Canada vs Croatia
Canada To Lose-130
Canada To Win+350

The odds here still favor a Canada loss, but they aren’t as decisive as they are with Belgium. At -130, our odds calculator gives Croatia 56.36 percent implied odds to win. As we’ve seen, Canada can’t afford a loss against any of their group opponents. A win would be ideal, but a draw would do them just as well.

Since the last World Cup, Croatia has gone 21-11-14 with a +18 goal differential. Looking at that record a little closer, Croatia rarely wins comfortably. Of those 21 wins, 13 (62%) of them are by a single goal. Croatia’s margin for error is quite thin. Exactly what the Canadians need.

While the Canadians operated a more defensively rigid system, it didn’t stop them from putting up good offensive numbers. Through CONCACAF qualifications, the Red and White led the region in goals, assists and goals-assists minus penalties, all per 90 (among teams that played at least 10 games).

Defensively, the Canadians held the lowest goals against and third-lowest assists against in the region per 90 for any team that’s played more than 10 games.

With Croatia’s “ability,” we’ll say, to keep the score close, and with Canada’s good offensive numbers, at least through CONCACAF qualifiers, a draw is likely here.

At +270, a winning bet on a likely draw between Croatia and Canada would produce a $270 profit.

World Cup Canada Game 3 vs Morocco

Currently, the market for Canada vs Morocco has yet to open.

If a draw is an ideal outcome against Belgium and Croatia, then this matchup against Morocco has to be where Canada targets a win. But Morocco is not a lightweight. Since 2020, they’ve only lost twice in competitive matches and friendlies. Those losses were against Egypt in the AFCON quarterfinals in January, and then to the U.S. in a friendly on June 1.

On both occasions, the Moroccans held less of the ball with possession rates of 45 percent (vs Egypt) and 47 percent (vs USA). Both Egypt and the USA line up in a more traditional 4-3-3 and simply pressed Morocco on and off the ball. And it worked.

Looking back to that 3-0 Morocco loss to the U.S. in June, Morocco doubled the States in terms of shots (22-11) but managed to get only eight on target. That speaks to the U.S. successfully pressing the Atlas Lions into low-danger opportunities where the Moroccans simply hoped for the best.

For Canada to get a needed win, Herdman will have to change his formation (which he’s done in the past to suit the opponent) to a more traditional 4-4-3 to consistently press the Moroccans to make wasteful decisions, as the U.S. did in June.

Morocco fired veteran head coach Vahid Halilhodzic days ago and replaced him with a relatively inexperienced Walid Regragui. Regragui has little international coaching experience but was an assistant coach for Morocco between September 2012 and October 2013.

The road for Canada to make the Group of 16 is there. It’s going to be tough, but there’s a real chance they make it. At +275 to qualify, their implied odds according to our odds calculator are 26.67 percent. A $100 bet on Canada to qualify would net you $275 plus your $100 stake.