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2018 FIFA World Cup | Brazil vs Belgium Preview: Favorites meet dark horses

Can Belgium’s golden generation finally break the duck and stun Brazil?

Karan Anand | New Delhi |

On Friday, Neymar-led Brazil will take on Eden Hazard’s Belgium in the much awaited quarter-final clash.

Neymar finally came into his own in the round of 16 match against Mexico, as he scored one and assisted another.

On the hand, Belgium star Eden Hazard has been in fine form throughout the tournament, winning three man of the match awards.

ALSO READ: 2018 FIFA World Cup | France vs Uruguay Preview: The unstoppable meet the unshakeable  

Even if Neymar or Hazard fail to perform, both sides have plenty of firepower with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Kevin De Bryune, Willian, and Romelu Lukaku.

Unlike Brazil, Belgium were tested thoroughly in their last match as they overcame a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 against Japan, and this may work in their favour.

Both teams have a lot of quality firepower in their sides and you can expect plenty of goals in what is expected to be an exciting clash between the Latin American giants and the European powerhouse.

Brazil 

Brazil are one of the tournament favourites, but they have so far not won any of their matches with conviction. They have not scored  more than two goals in any of their matches but somehow always managed to find a way to win.

Led by Neymar, they have many star players and after win against Mexico, they are finally starting to look convincing.

2018 FIFA World Cup, Neymar, Brazil
Neymar was the star for Brazil against Mexico (Photo: AFP)

 

Though known for their attacking prowess, it is their defence that has shone so far as they conceded just one goal in four matches.

Neymar will lead the attack from the left wing with Chelsea star Willian playing on the other wing. Man City youngster Gabriel Jesus will play though the middle but Roberto Firmino will be lurking to take his place after scoring a goal In his last match.

The big change for Brazil will come in the midfield as Real Madrid star Casemiro is suspended and will be replaced by Fernandinho, as confirmed by Brazil’s coach. He will be joined by the Barcelona duo of Coutinho and Paulinho.

2018 FIFA World Cup, Brazil, Coutinho
Coutinho has been Brazil’s best player at the World Cup so far (Photo: AFP)

 

Marcelo will also be back for Brazil after missing the last match due to a muscle injury. He will join Thiago Silva and Miranda to form a solid defence with Alisson starting between the sticks.

Brazil are the favourites to win but they will be tested thoroughly as this will b their first big test at this World Cup.

With so many stars in both sides, it will all come down to a moment of sheer brilliance, which can be produced by either of Neymar, Hazard, Coutinho or De Bryune.

Talking Corner  “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).”

– Brazil Coach Tite

Injury concerns: Danilo (Ankle), Douglas Costa (Thigh)

Suspensions: Casemiro

Likely starting 11: (4-2-3-1)  Alisson Becker, Marcelo, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Fagner, Fernandinho, Coutinho, Paulinho, Willian, Jesus, Neymar.

Belgium 

This is considered to be Belgium’s golden generation and it looks like they are finally living up to the hype around them. They have been clinical so far, winning all four of their matches.

They narrowly won against Japan but the win will give the players a lot of confidence as they came from two goals down.

With all their players looking in fine form, Belgium may finally break their duck and win the World Cup for the first time.

Romelu Lukaku will start as the sole striker with Chelsea star Eden Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens starting on the wings. Lukaku gives the side a height advantage as he can pounce on the crosses by Hazard and De Bryune.

Romelu Lukaku, Belgium Football, 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA World Cup 2018, Belgium vs Japan
Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku celebrates his side’s win vs Japan (Photo: AFP)

 

They play an odd 3-4-3 formation with Kevin De Bryune and Axel Witsel being the only midfielders in the side. Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier also play in the middle but mostly as wing-backs as they have to track back a lot.

Vincent Kompany is finally fit and started the previous game and is expected to start today as well. Spurs Duo Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will join Kompany to form a solid defence. The experienced Thibaut Courtois will start as the goalkeeper.

If Belgium can somehow manage to defeat Brazil today, their players will actually start believing they can win the World Cup.

Having not won any major tournament, The Belgians lack the self-belief but if they were to ever change that, today is the day.

ALSO READ: 2018 FIFA World Cup | Neymar’s playacting cost 14 minutes of match time 

Talking Corner  “We will need power. We have to defend as well as we can and then cause them pain when we have the ball.”

– Belgium coach Roberto Martinez

Injury Concerns: None

Suspensions: None

Likely starting 11: (3-43) Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Yannick Carrasco, Lukaku.

Super Stats:  The two sides have previously met only once at the World Cup in 2002 round of 16, where Brazil won 2-0 courtesy of second half goals by Rivaldo and Ronaldo. 

Brazil have reached the quarter-finals for the seventh consecutive World Cup. They have only lost twice at this stage — against France in 2006 and the Netherlands in 2010.

Belgium are undefeated in their last 23 games, (W18, D5) and a win tonight will see them reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1986.