Brazil takes on Belgium in the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The South American side will be hopeful of winning the competition for a sixth time while European giants Belgium aim to win it for their first. This year has already seen some massive upsets so far. Many of the pre-tournament favourites are out. Portugal, Argentina, Spain and Germany have all been eliminated. Both Belgium and Brazil will be fully aware that this presents a massive opportunity to bring the cup back to their countries.
World Cup Preview: Brazil v Belgium
Journey so far
Belgium narrowly defeated Japan in the last round. They became the first team to comeback from two goals down to win a FIFA World Cup knock out game. The match demonstrated the team’s ability to overcome adversity and fight till the bitter end. Japan has a significantly weaker team than the Belgian “Golden Generation”. Had the Europeans been knocked out, it would’ve been perceived as an embarrassment for a team with so much potential.
Brazil, on the other hand, have been slow but steady. The South Americans are yet to set the tournament alight, however, they have not been on the receiving end of a scare or upset thus far. They efficiently saw off Mexico 2-0 in the last round and will be expected to do so again here.
Key men for Belgium
Given the wide array of Premier League talent on offer to the Belgians, it is difficult to single out any one true talisman. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have not been as effective as they have been for their club side. The two creators have had their moments in the competition so far but have remained below their usual high standards. Despite the embarrassment of riches Belgium have in technically gifted players, it is the unfashionable Fellani who could prove to be the difference maker in this game. The Manchester United man is one of the best aerial threats in world football. The midfielder causes complete havoc for the opposition defence and his introduction against Japan was the catalyst for the Belgian revival. Fellani will probably not start, but if Belgium are struggling, his introduction may tip the tie in their favour.
Key men for Brazil
Love him or hate him, you just cannot ignore him. Neymar Jr. has been one of the most talked about players of the tournament so far. Two goals and one assist so far have been major factors in Brazil’s success. The PSG man is Brazil’s talisman and everything runs through the worlds most expensive player.
One of the downsides of this tournament has been “play acting”. Neymar himself as been one of the chief culprits. The Santos academy graduates exaggerated falls, screaming at the faintest contact and worst of all the ridiculously over the top rolling on the ground, which have been the subject for quite a lot of internet memes. The Brazilian is having a good tournament, but if he does not learn how to conduct himself appropriately, he will only be remembered as that Brazilian guy who rolled for five miles after every challenge.
Alongside Neymar, Brazil will look to FC Barcelona midfielders Coutinho and Paulinho. Both of these players are capable of scoring goals. Coutinho is able to score from anywhere within 30 yards of the goal and Paulinho making decisive runs into the box to finish off moves. Coutinho has contributed two goals and one assist so far this tournament while Tottenham Hotspur flop Paulinho, has managed one goal. This dual goal scoring threat from midfield ensures Brazil are not simply the “Neymar show”.
Brazil are a massive step up from Japan. Belgium were very lucky and it’s unlikely they’ll get lucky again. Belgium’s only chance would be to play defensively. Moussa Dembele should start this game to ensure Belgium have a better chance of maintaining possession and creating a foothold in the game. Belgium have been playing Manchester City star, Kevin De Bruyne in defensive midfield all tournament. This isn’t good enough defensive cover for the Belgian backline, it is doubtful that Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez, will rectify his mistakes and adapt to the superior opponents. Paulinho and Coutinho could potentially run riot if Belgium set up like they did against Japan.
Brazil 4 Belgium 1
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