Brazil face Croatia next on their path to the fabled ”Hexa.”
The Latin Americans come to the quarterfinal on the back of an effortless 4-1 round-of-16 triumph over South Korea.
Croatia also took on an Asian opponent, but they had a far more difficult challenge.
They had to come from behind to salvage a 1-1 draw against Japan in regulation time. A brilliant Dominik Livaković performance between the sticks brought the Chequered Ones to the final eight.
Croatia are now on a 10-match unbeaten run and they have lost only once since crashing out of the Euro 2020 round-of-16. But Zlatko Dalić knows that his team will face a sterner test than any when Croatia come across a highly spirited Brazil.
Croatia did not bring their best shooting boots to Qatar. Other than the Canada match, they have failed to impress as an attacking unit. However, defensively they have been rock solid.
They have only conceded twice so far. So, they will bank on their defensive resilience to neutralise Brazil’s firepower.
On the contrary, Brazil have been playing the electrifying, free-flowing style of football that everyone expects of them.
They did lose their final group match to Cameroon, but they had already qualified for the knockouts and only a lack of clinical finishing deprived them of a perfect nine points out of nine scenario.
Tite’s men seemed desperate to compensate for their barren spell of ninety minutes against Cameroon when they took the pitch against South Korea on Monday night.
They went four-nil up before the first-half whistle went off. So, Paik Seung-ho’s second-half strike was merely a consolation goal for the Taegeuk Warriors.
Head to Head
Just as Brazil have a European hoodoo, so do Croatia.
In their case, they have won just one of their last five meetings with South American sides.
That happened when they stunned Argentina 3-0 win four years ago.
They never beaten Brazil, with one draw and three losses from their four meetings.
Borna Sosa had to watch Croatia’s penalty shootout win against Japan from the hotel room.
The left-back has recovered from illness and hopes to make it to the starting XI against Brazil.
Josip Stanišić, who plays on the other flank of the defence, also missed out on the Japan match as he was nurturing a muscular problem. He is yet to be declared fit to play.
Alex Sandro has not joined Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles on the flight back home, but the Juventus left-back continues to struggle with his injury.
Sandro was not involved in the last two games and was seen training alone after the South Korea match, implying his club colleague Danilo will deputise for him once again.
Neymar Jr. returned to action for Brazil against South Korea, but he is yet to fully recover from his ankle problem. But the Paris Saint-Germain ace will return to action as the playmaker behind Richarlison. Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha will provide the attacking threat from the flanks.
Croatia could be a tough nut to crack, but Brazil should be able to come out on top of this tie.
Brazil’s attack is so good that they can make up for their defensive deficiency. We say 2-1 for Brazil.
Date: December 9
Kickoff: 8:30 PM IST
Venue: Education City Stadium