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Steve Davies World Cup tips
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Morocco v Croatia and Germany v Japan: Steve Davies' betting tips

Croatia, beaten finalists four years ago, and three-time winners Germany begin their World Cup campaigns with awkward-looking ties and the Racing Post's Steve Davies has given us his thoughts on both matches.

Can Morocco's management gamble strike gold early on?

What: Morocco v Croatia, World Cup

Where: Al-Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar

When: 10:00, Wednesday 23rd November

How to watch: ITV1

Odds: Morocco 11/4, Croatia 21/10, Draw 11/5

It took the removal of the head coach on the eve of the finals to do it, but harmony has broken out in the Morocco camp at just the right time.

The classy North Africans rolled the dice in September by replacing the unpopular Vahid Halilhodzic (who had got them to Qatar) with the unheralded Walid Regragui.

It was a calculated gamble because within days, Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech and Bayern Munich's Noussair Mazraoui had come out of international retirement and suddenly the Atlas Lions look a different prospect.

Morocco have played four matches under Regragui and not conceded a single goal – the pick was a 2-0 win over Chile – and it's that defensive discipline which will be key to giving them a sniff of halting the Croats and ultimately emerging from Group F.

Flying Croats aware they face stern test

Croatia, inspired by 37-year-old maestro Luka Modric, are on a five-match winning run, a sequence which includes competitive wins over France and Denmark.

However, it was the fifth match on that list – a 1-0 friendly win when they struggled to break down a stubborn Saudi Arabia – which hints at an issue, which is a lack of faith in the goal threat posed by the likes of Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic.

Kramaric is 11/2 to score the opener, Ziyech 8/1 to do likewise, but a lack of goals is more tempting.

No Goalscorer is 6/1 while Under 2.5 Goals at 4/7 probably reflects the likelihood best of a tight affair.

The amount of added time being played means late mistakes could get punished – we've seen it so far – but the half-time 0-0 Correct Score at 11/8 would reflect the probability of a cagey opening.

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Germany may not make light work of tenacious Japanese

What: Germany v Japan, World Cup

Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

When: 13:00, Wednesday 23rd November

How to watch: ITV1

Odds: Germany 1/2, Japan 6/1, Draw 16/5

Germany arrived at the Khalifa International Stadium packed with world-class players but missing one key ingredient – a top-level centre-forward.

Bremen's Niclas Fullkrug has something of Miroslav Klose about him (though he's not that good) and could take the number nine role against Japan if Hansi Flick wants that type of target man.

Or Flick instead deploys someone like Kai Havertz or Serge Gnabry up top – he's done it many times before – and banks on whoever it is effectively playing in a four and trying to run rings around an experienced Japan defence.

With Germany a 1/2 chance the presumption is they'll figure it out easily enough, though this is a team who stank the place out at the last World Cup and last year's Euros, albeit under different management.

Both teams have scored in six of Germany's last eight internationals and Die Mannschaft have conceded in seven of them. The only side they stopped was Oman. The 4/5 on Both Teams to Score reflects doubts in a German defence with Antonio Rudiger at the heart of it.

Group E Preview

Rudiger could be a genuine goal threat

Germany have creative gems, one in particular in Jamal Musiala whose likely battle with Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu is a contest to keep an eye on.

Musiala is the one player with maverick talent in an otherwise functional German outfit and the Bayern Munich youngster at 7/1 to be the First Goalscorer is worth a second glance.

Where Germany will be strong is at set-plays, an aspect of their game they are meticulously drilled in, and suddenly someone like Rudiger at 40/1 to score first looks an eye-catching each-way possibility.

Eight members of the Japan squad earn a living in the Bundesliga so they'll be acutely aware of the threat posed by their opponents – but also confident that if they can live with them on a weekly basis, they can do so here.

And they are no mugs. In 2022 they have beaten the likes of Australia, Ghana, Paraguay and the United States and while Germany is a step up in class, it's not quite the unbridgeable step up it used to be.

The Germans, with a power-packed bench, can limp over the line though a Correct Score proposition might be 2-1 to Flick's men at 17/2.

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