A place in the FIFA World Cup 2022 semi-finals will be on the line when Croatia and Brazil face off at the Education City Stadium on Friday.
Only ten days remain for the curtains to fall on the FIFA World Cup 2022. The extravaganza in Qatar has thrown up some spectacles and some shocking results. And Croatia will look to spring a surprise on Brazil when the two teams clash at the Education City Stadium on Friday in the first quarter-final.
Croatia took the scenic route to qualify for the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022. The Vatreni started with a goalless draw against Morocco before beating Canada 4-1. And another stalemate with Belgium meant they finished second in Group F behind Morocco. Zlatko Dalic’s men then came from behind to hold Japan to a 1-1 draw before beating the Blue Samurai in penalties.
On the other hand, Brazil topped Group G by winning the first two games. And the 1-0 defeat to Cameroon did not matter as the Selecao had already booked a place in the Round of 16 and finished as the Group Winners. But Tite’s charges turned on the style in the Last 16 as they ran riot in the first half to beat South Korea 4-1.
Brazil clinched a 2-0 win the last time they locked horns with Croatia in a friendly in 2018, with Neymar and Roberto Firmino finding the back of the net. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FIFA World Cup 2022 encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
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Zlatko Dalic does not have any new injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to the Education City Stadium. The Croatia head coach should have a full-strength squad at his disposal against Brazil on Friday.
Borna Sosa (illness) and Josip Stanisic (muscle injury) were unavailable to take on Japan in the previous game. While Stanisic is a minor doubt, he should be fit enough to make the bench. But Sosa will have recovered from his issue to return to the starting eleven, replacing Borna Barisic.
Sosa will feature on the left side of Croatia’s defence, with Josip Juranovic featuring on the right flank. Dejan Lovren and Josko Gvardiol should form the central defensive partnership. And the back four will protect Dominik Livakovic, the penalty shootout hero against Japan.
Midfield will be the area of the pitch Croatia will look to dominate against Brazil. With stalwarts like Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, and Marcelo Brozovic reprising their usual roles in the middle of the park, the trio will be Dalic’s best bet to push the Selecao on the backfoot. If the three midfielders are successful in their endeavour, Ivan Perisic will come into the equation.
Against Japan, the veteran became the first player to score ten goals in major tournaments for Croatia. At the World Cup alone, he has been involved in ten goals in his last 13 outings. So Perisic will be the go-to player for Dalic, with Bruno Petkovic and Andrej Kramaric starting alongside the 33-year-old.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Petkovic, Perisic
Unlike his counterpart in the Croatia dugout, Tite has several players unavailable ahead of the trip to the Education City Stadium. The Brazil head coach will be without three players in Al Rayyan on Friday.
Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles have played their last games at the FIFA World Cup 2022 due to their respective knee injuries. In addition, Alex Sandro will likely remain unavailable against Croatia due to a hip issue. But the 31-year-old could reportedly be involved in training on Thursday.
The good news for Brazil is Neymar and Danilo came through unscathed from the Round of 16 after recovering from their respective ankle injuries. And Danilo will likely start as the left-back again if Alex Sandro remains on the sidelines.
Classificamos para as quartas de final e já iniciamos a nossa preparação para enfrentar a Croácia pela @FIFAWorldCup
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The 31-year-old will join Eder Militao, Thiago Silva, and Marquinhos in the back four. Eder Militao’s presence on the right flank gives Brazil more solidity, making them close to indomitable. The defensive unit will cover Alisson Becker, who was top-class against South Korea earlier this week.
Fred and Bruno Guimaraes are one booking away from missing the semi-final due to a suspension. But Tite will not be sweating about that prospect, with Casemiro and Lucas Paqueta being the first-choice central midfield pairing. The duo will protect the backline while pushing Brazil forward at a quick tempo.
Neymar will look to pull strings in the final third after a stellar showing against South Korea. The 30-year-old is Brazil’s talisman, and the attacking trio of Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, and Raphinha will play around him in and around Croatia’s box.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Militao, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Danilo; Casemiro, Paqueta; Raphinha, Neymar, Vinicius Junior; Richarlison
- Brazil and Croatia have met four times previously, with the Selecao unbeaten in those match-ups (W3 D1). Friday’s clash will be their first meeting since a 2-0 friendly win for Brazil in June 2018.
- Croatia have lost four of their five World Cup games against South American sides, a 3-0 win over Argentina in 2018 being the exception. Two of those four defeats have been against Brazil – 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014 (both group stages).
- Since beating Germany 2-0 in the final in 2002, Brazil have lost each of their World Cup knockout stage games against European nations, including three quarter-finals in that run (France in 2006, Netherlands in 2010 and Belgium in 2018).
- In a run going back to UEFA Euro 2008, seven of Croatia’s last eight knockout stage games at major tournaments (World Cup and Euro) have gone to extra time, the 2018 World Cup final being the exception. They have progressed from all four such games at the World Cup, three via penalty shootout.
- Neymar has been involved in 15 goals in his last 11 appearances for Brazil in all competitions (eight goals, seven assists), with each of his most recent six goals for the national side coming from the penalty spot. Against South Korea, he became the first Brazilian on record (since 1966) to both score and provide an assist at three different World Cup tournaments.
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Tite has forged a team with barely any holes for the opposition to exploit. But the left-back slot remains an area of concern for the Brazil head coach against Croatia. Danilo is a makeshift option in the position, and the Vatreni might look to take advantage of that on Friday.
But the 31-year-old has improved his defensive awareness during his stint with Juventus. And he will look to put that to good use at the Education City Stadium. A solid showing by Danilo will build the base for the attackers to express themselves freely, and it will be interesting to see if he rises to the occasion.
Croatia 1-3 Brazil
Croatia will make things uncomfortable for Brazil with a dogged approach, and the Selecao might appear frustrated at times. The Vatreni will look to remain resolute at the back, and Dominik Livakovic will be a busy man between the sticks.
But Brazil will have too much quality to remain quiet throughout regulation time. And Tite’s men should open the floodgates once they initiate the scoring. But Croatia should make things interesting with one goal, although Brazil should hold on for a 3-1 win. The result will set up a semi-final date against the winner of the game between the Netherlands and Argentina.