In what could prove to be a classic World Cup quarter-final in southwest Russia on Friday night, a star-studded Brazil meet an equally as talented Belgium for a place in the last four of the competition.
2018 FIFA World Cup
06 July 2018
Venue: Kazan Arena
Kick-off: 20h00 (GMT+2)
Referee: M. Mazic
Assistants: M. Ristic, D. Durdevic
Fourth official: J. Marrufo
Brazil 2-0 Belgium (2002 World Cup) 17/06/2002
Brazil goalscorer: Rivaldo (67′), (87′)
Players to watch:
The Brazilians have some staggering attacking talent available with Philippe Coutinho and Neymar being the chief destroyers so far with their two goals each. Yet, there could be some impact from a more unexpected source in the form of Roberto Firmino. Despite being used as a late substitute often behind the so far less effective Gabriel Jesus, the Liverpool star has managed to have an impact and scored in the 2-0 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16.
Romelu Lukaku has another opportunity to keep up his pursuit of England’s Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot. Currently on four goals, two behind his Three Lions counterpart, the Manchester United hitman will look to cause problems to a so far watertight Brazil defence. He will also likely receive support from Eden Hazard with the Chelsea man on his day capable of being a world-beater.
Team form and manager quotes:
Historically, Selecao are well known for their ‘jogo bonito’ (beautiful game) as well as their attacking exploits, but the current side are a tough nut to crack in defence as well. They have conceded only once so far in the tournament and have kept an incredible 19 clean sheets in their last 25 matches under manager Tite.
The five-time World Champions have virtually breezed through to the quarter-finals with one minor setback being a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the group stages. Nonetheless, Brazil’s mentor expects a thrilling contest at the Kazan Arena.
He told reporters: “It will be a great match. Both teams excel with a beautiful football. Belgium have great players and a great coach as well. I’ve always put them in the group of favourites (for the title).”
Meanwhile, Belgium stormed through the group stages before having to stage a dramatic fightback in the last-16 against Japan. After being 2-0 down with just over 20 minutes to go, strikes from Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli sealed passage to meet the South American giants.
As such, De Rode Duivels became the first team in 48 years to come back from a 2-0 deficit, though a slow start against Brazil seems likely to prove more costly. Head coach Roberto Martinez said of the encounter: “We will need power. We have to defend as well as we can and then cause them pain when we have the ball.”
Casemiro is suspended for the Brazilians and will be replaced by Manchester City’s Fernandinho, Tite has confirmed. Marcelo has recovered from a back issue and will reclaim his left-back spot from Filipe Luis.
Winger Douglas Costa has overcome a minor muscle problem and is available.
For the Belgians, only winger Adnan Januzaj is a doubt having missed the win over the Japanese with an unspecified injury concern. Martinez’s squad otherwise has a clean bill of health.