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World Cup picks: Morocco vs. Croatia, Germany vs. Japan

Two European powers are on upset watch on Wednesday in the World Cup

Luka Modric of Croatia looks on during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 match between Austria and Croatia at Ernst Happel Stadion on September 25, 2022 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
Luka Modric of Croatia looks on during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 match between Austria and Croatia at Ernst Happel Stadion on September 25, 2022 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)Read moreFOTObyHOFER/Christian Hofer / Getty Images

There are usually a few chaotic days across any major international soccer tournament and Wednesday seems like it has a chance to be one with a couple of live underdogs on the card.

Let’s take a look.

Croatia vs. Morocco prediction: Pick

  1. Morocco +280 (BetMGM)

Croatia vs. Morocco prediction: Analysis

Four years ago, Croatia were the darlings of the World Cup. Priced as a 33/1 outsider going into Russia, the Checkered Ones went on a magical run to the final before losing, 4-2, to France.

That result looked like the end for a terrific generation of Croatian stars, but the core of that group is back for another kick at the can in Qatar.

» READ MORE: World Cup 2022 Golden Boot odds: Messi, Mbappe highlight the contenders to score the most goals

Croatia is a 50/1 longshot to win the tournament, but the Checkered Ones are odds-on favorites to advance out of Group F ahead of Morocco and Canada.

But there are reasons to be concerned about Croatia. While 37-year-old Luka Modric has proven to be an ageless, game-breaking talent, you can’t say the same thing about the rest of this Croatian core. Four years ago, Modric was the player of the tournament and willed his team to the final with a sensational performance, but he had more help on that squad, which featured a handful of players still in their prime.

Croatia’s age showed big time during last summer’s European Championships, which saw the Checkered Ones get bounced by Spain in the Round of 16.

Morocco, meanwhile, come into this tournament in great form. The Atlas Lions showed well in a run to the quarterfinals of the last African Cup of Nations and then dominated the Democratic Republic of Congo, 5-2, in a two-leg playoff to qualify for Qatar.

A team built on the strength of its defense, Morocco should be able to cope with a pretty slow-moving Croatian attack that will rely on Modric to unlock the defense. The Atlas Lions won’t be pushed around, though, as they’ve held 14 of their last 17 opponents to under one expected goal.

Croatia has the better attacking players, but Morocco has difference-makers to help handle Modric and co.

PSG’s Achraf Hakimi is the star man, but they also have talent on the opposite side of the backline with Noussair Mazraoui. The center of the defense, which will likely feature Romain Saïss and Nayef Aguerd, is also solid.

Croatia are the better team with a stronger pedigree, but these odds underrate Morocco’s chances of pulling an upset on Wednesday.

» READ MORE: World Cup 2022: Latest odds to win the tournament

Germany vs. Japan prediction: Pick

  1. Japan +600 (FanDuel)

Germany vs. Japan prediction: Analysis

Germany’s talent and style of play is usually a nightmare to deal with for less talented teams that prefer to sit deep and defend for 90 minutes.

But that’s not how Japan operates.

Although Samurai Blue can’t match the talent of Die Mannschaft, they can cause plenty of problems with the way they play.

Unlike other longshots, Japan prefers to play a frenetic pressing style that thrives on creating mistakes high up the pitch. From there, Samurai Blue spring quickly into counter-attack mode and look to create their offense from there.

While Germany has players that can handle pressure — the Bundesliga is full of teams that play like Japan — they also play a style that makes them vulnerable against a team like Samurai Blue.

Germany’s manager, Hansi Flick, wants his team to play an ultra-aggressive style that requires almost every player to think about joining the attack. That leaves a ton of space in behind Die Mannschaft for Japan to run into after they win the ball.

Japan is a longshot for a reason, but there are stylistic advantages that make Samurai Blue a live underdog against Germany on Wednesday.

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