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Under-pressure Belgium not 'in crisis mode', says Castagne, as Morocco chase history

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Belgium defender Timothy Castagne says his side are not in "crisis mode" ahead of their crucial 2022 World Cup Group F match against Croatia. AFP

Under-pressure Belgium not 'in crisis mode', says Castagne, as Morocco chase history

Belgium are not in "crisis mode" ahead of their crucial World Cup match against Croatia (at 10pm Cambodian time), full-back Timothy Castagne said on Wednesday, as Morocco aim for qualification to the knockout stage for the first time since 1986.

With a backdrop of rumours of infighting and division in the squad, Belgium have to win at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Thursday to be sure of reaching the last 16 after a surprising 2-0 loss to the Moroccans.

The "Red Devils", the world's second-ranked side, have reached at least the quarter-finals at each of the past four major tournaments but have struggled in Qatar, labouring to a 1-0 win over Canada in their opener.

However, Leicester defender Castagne said spirits in the camp were high.

"Our confidence isn't as low as people think," he said. "We know that we have our destiny in our own hands. It's true we didn't play so well in the first two matches, but we're not in crisis mode like some people are saying in the press."

Belgium will have to push for the win as a draw would leave them needing Morocco to lose heavily to Canada in order for the Belgians to go through.

Morocco, like Croatia, can secure their place in the knockout phase by avoiding defeat.

Kevin De Bruyne said before the Morocco game that Belgium were "too old" to win the tournament, a comment Jan Vertonghen appeared to refer to in an angry post-match interview.

Seven of Belgium's starting XI against Morocco are in their 30s, while 10 of the 14 players who featured in the 2018 semi-final loss to eventual winners France are still in the squad.

Players held clear-the-air talks for over an hour after the defeat by the north African team.

"I don't think Kevin meant anything bad by what he said and we know Italy won the Euros with [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Giorgio] Chiellini at the back, so age isn't always a factor," said Castagne.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had already hit out at "invented stories" about the Belgian players and coach Roberto Martinez criticised "fake news" on Wednesday.

"Some people are quite happy to jump on fake news, which is quite astonishing," said the Spanish coach.

"It shows you that maybe there is more desire to find negative news about the team rather than enjoy the best generation of talent that we've ever had in Belgian football."

Six members of the current squad have won 100 caps or more, with Courtois set to join that club on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Morocco coach Walid Regragui wants "no regrets" after facing Canada on Thursday, with his team aiming for qualification to the World Cup knockout stage for the first time in 36 years.

The north African side reached the last 16 at Mexico 86 for the only time in their history, and a point against already-eliminated Canada would see them repeat the feat.

Morocco are second in Group F, level on four points with leaders Croatia, who face Belgium, on three points, while Canada are bottom with no points.

"We don't want to have an eye on the Croatia and Belgium match to decide our own fate. We [need to] give everything we've got so we have no regrets at the end," Regragui said on Wednesday.

"We'll give everything we've got. Our players want to make history and will give 110 percent to ensure the Moroccan population is happy."


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