Morocco vs Croatia (11 CET)
Croatia and Morocco, both of which are making their sixth World Cup appearance, will kick off Wednesday’s World Cup action.
Croatia almost won in 2018, with France beating them in the final, 4-2.
Two of Croatia’s midfielders, Marcelo Brocovic and Mateo Kovacic, will play despite having both suffered recent injuries.
Morocco defender Nayef Aguerd will also start despite having made only one league appearance this season for his club, West Ham United.
The Moroccan team earned only one point in three group matches, but returns to the tournament and qualified with a perfect record by winning all six of its group games.
Germany vs Japan (14 CET)
Germany is seeking its fifth World Cup title as it kicks off its campaign against Japan.
The country is trying to recover from its group-stage elimination in 2018 — its earliest knockout in World Cup history.
So far, things are not boding well for the German team, as it appeared weak in a 1-0 win over Oman in its final warm-up game.
The Germans will be without winger Leroy Sané as a result of a knee injury. He could be replaced by 19-year-old Bayern Munich teammate, Jamal Musiala.
Spain vs Costa Rica (17 CET)
Spain will play Costa Rica in the early part of the afternoon.
The South European country was the 2010 World Cup champion, the second of three straight major titles it won between the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Nevertheless, it was eliminated from the group stage in 2014 and knocked out on penalties in the round of 16 in 2018 by the host nation, Russia.
Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals in 2014 — its greatest World Cup success to date — but failed to win a single match and was eliminated from the group stage four years ago. It is now ranked 31st in the world by FIFA.
Belgium vs Canada (20 CET)
Belgium is currently second in FIFA’s rankings and will be facing Canada — ranked 41st — in the evening.
The country has been a contender in recent years, finishing third at the 2018 World Cup and losing to Italy in the quarter-finals at the 2020 European Championships.
But its ageing team has suffered injuries, and striker Romelu Lukaku will miss the match against Canada and perhaps also the subsequent match against Morocco.
Canada, on the other hand, is making its second-ever appearance at the World Cup, and its first trip to the tournament since Mexico 36 years ago.
Star winger Alphonso Davies will make his World Cup debut in a boost for Canada. While he is deemed the team’s top player, his current status is in doubt after he strained his right hamstring playing for Bayern Munich earlier this month.