World Cup Croatia v Belgium tips: De Bruyne set to shine in potential thriller

With one of Europe's heavyweights facing potential elimination, Tipstrr football expert Sergiu Baltuta believes Belgium's stars are due to shine in Thursday's must-win game against Croatia.

Morocco's impressive performances have split Group F wide open and they now have arguably the simplest task, needing only to draw with already eliminated Canada to ensure qualification, while a win could see them top the group - they could even go through with a defeat if Belgium fail to beat Croatia.

That would leave either Croatia or Belgium looking at an early exit, turning today's heavyweight clash into an all-European play-off, where defeat would be likely to see the loser eliminated, with Croatia having the buffer of a draw acting in their favour.

Croatia had a slow start in their opening goalless draw with Morocco, and four days later it took an early Canada goal to spark them into life, as they gradually took control of the game on their way to a decisive 4-1 victory.

Despite reaching the World Cup final just four years ago, Croatia are still seen as a dark horse in the competition. They boast a star-studded line-up, led by 37-year-old captain Luka Modric whose ageing legs show few signs of slowing down, and playing alongside Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic, he remains the focal point of one of the most creative units in the competition.

They will look to provide front man Andrej Kramaric the kind of service he enjoyed against Canada, and he looks likely to get chances to add to that two-goal tally, especially if Belgium's defence becomes stretched in their push for goals

Belgium's so-called golden generation have so far failed to live up to their star billing, and were extremely lucky to beat Canada 1-0 in an opening game where goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was their best player, with a first-half penalty save among several crucial interventions.

Their luck ran out in the second game where they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by impressive Morocco, and Belgium are now in real danger of following England (2014) and Germany (2018) as the tournament's biggest team to be eliminated at the group stage.

Roberto Martinez must decide if Romelu Lukaku is fit enough to start, because despite his replacement Michy Batshuayi scoring Belgium's only goal so far, it is Lukaku's more intimidating presence that can be a potential game changer.

Elsewhere Eden Hazard appears to have lost his sparkle for club and country recently, while Kevin De Bruyne has so far failed to reproduce the form he shows week in week out for Manchester City.

Belgium's stars are clearly due to deliver at some point and with time running out, maybe the stage is set for them to do so in this must-win game.

If all the stars on display can shine on Thursday, then we could well be in for one of the games of the tournament

Belgium need a goal to achieve the win they need, and if they score then it will be Croatia staring elimination in the face, so there could be thrill and spills at both ends of the pitch.

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