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Sport Preview: World Cup Quarter-Finals - Fri 09th Dec

World Cup Quarter Finals: Croatia v Brazil

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Selections

Croatia vs Brazil: Fri 9th Dec, 3:00pm

Brazil are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the World Cup and their powerful showing against South Korea only reinforced their position at the head of the market.

Croatia are up next in Friday’s quarter-final and their coach Zlatko Dalic has no doubts who the tournament’s best team are.

“Brazil is the most powerful and the best national team at the World Cup. What I’ve seen so far, when you take a look at their selection of players, their quality, skills and value, then it is indeed terrifying,” said the 56-year-old.

His experienced team, though, will not be overawed by a match-up with the 2002 winners. Led by Luka Modric, Croatia reached the final in 2018.

They are, though, an ageing team that could well have done without 120 gruelling minutes against Japan in the round of 16. Brazil for their part disposed of Korea in 90 minutes with minimum fuss.

Croatia dominated possession (58%) and managed 17 shots against Japan but they had to come from behind to send the game, which was a real 50/50 encounter, into extra-time and penalties.

What Dalic’s men lack in dynamism, they make up for in knowhow and on the big stage they have a knack of getting the job done. And if they can do something similar against Brazil it may well go down as one of their biggest achievements.

What is encouraging for Croatia is that the Selecao have lost three of their last four World Cup quarter-final matches, including in 2018 when they were beaten by Belgium.

Not too many of that side remain in Tite’s thinking in Qatar and Brazil have shown so far that they are not only dangerous and incisive in attack, but they are also a tight defensive unit.

They have only conceded two goals – one in the defeat to Cameroon which was a much-changed side, and the other when they were home and dry against Korea.

Casemiro, has somehow, done a sterling job of keeping teams away from Brazil’s back four.

Tite’s men are certainly not a side that pass for passing’s sake. In fact Croatia have completed more passes (2111) than the Selecao (2071). It’s been the timing and speed of their attacking play which did for Korea.

Croatia will not be as easily drawn out of their 4-3-3 shape and it’s quite conceivable that Croatia will have plenty of midfield possession with the narrow three of Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.

The game will largely depend on Croatia’s full-backs to keep a check on Brazil’s wide men Raphinha and Vinicius Junior.

Borna Sosa missed the win over Japan due to illness, but he is set to return at the expense of Rangers’ Borna Barisic.

In attack, Croatia have struggled with just five goals scored and Bruno Petkovic is far from an assured starter after a quiet showing last time out.

Croatia are not a team that are flooded with goals, and with just two goals conceded they will be a tough nut to crack for Brazil, who might have to go the distance to reach the final four.



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