FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 – Brazil vs Belgium PREVIEW
One of the most anticipated quarter finals of the tournament. It’s Brazil against Belgium. A game that involves some of the best attacking talent in the world including Neymar, Hazard, Coutinho, de Bruyne, Jesus, Lukaku, Willian, Mertens and many others. These nations are two of the top 4 in the tournament and them facing up in the Quarters is a big deal because whoever wins takes a huge step eliminating the other. It’s expected to be an incredible game with some of the best talent on show and we should witness an intense game which involves goals.
The tournament favourites have so far been pretty much flawless in this tournament. However, this is going to be the biggest test of the tournament for Brazil. As the games gone by, Brazil have been playing better and better. They reached the quarters by topping a group that involved Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica with 2W and 1D. They drew the first game against Switzerland, then beat the latter nations 2-0 each. In R16, Brazil played their best game of the tournament beating what was the high flying Mexico at that point 2-0. Throughout the tournament, Brazil have shown great organisation defensively, something they’ve lacked in the previous tournament. They have shown to have depth too, with Marcelo hurt, Filipe Luis has fit in and Fagner has fit in really well on the other side pretty much benching Danilo for good. Brazil’s attack has started to click recently, Coutinho has been sensational, Neymar has improved and Willian is starting to find his stride. Only player that has disappointed in the Brazil shirt has been Gabriel Jesus, he’s not lived up to the hype and could very well be replaced by Firmino which once again proves the point that their depth is incredible. All around, Brazil have just been good from the back to the front and they have players who can come in and make an impact off the bench. Just look at who they have to replace the suspended Casemiro, its another top class DM in Fernandinho.
Belgium are coming into this game after a crazy rollercoaster match where they showed unbelievable character in a comeback win. So far, Belgium have been flawless in the tournament in terms of winning percentage winning every game, but they sure have shown to have more weaknesses than Brazil. To summarise Belgium’s tournament so far they topped the group that involved Panama, Tunisia and England battering Panama 3-0, Tunisia 5-2 and beating England in a game where both sides rotated pretty much their whole teams 1-0. Now, the R16 was where it got very intense Belgium. Belgium beat Japan 3-2, but at one point during the game Japan had a 0-2 lead and it took Belgium until the 69th minute to score and then eventually overcome the deficit with a last ditch winner by Chadli. It was a game where Martinez made some great tactical changes which got Belgium back in it, they showed great character and it may be the mental breaking game for Belgium as a whole which will now set them up to go all the way. Throughout the tournament, we’ve seen Belgium’s biggest strength being their attack and their depth. They have been scoring at free will with 12 goals in 4 games in the tournament, although some may say they have played pretty average/awful sides but you play those who are in front of you and Belgium have shown great attacking display in each game. In terms of depth, Belgium have shown to have game changers, we saw them beat England’s B team 1-0, but then when you look at the Japan game, two of the three goal scorers came off the bench, them being Fellaini and Chadli. When they came on Belgium were down 0-2 and they were great helping Belgium complete the back. Now, there has been one big weakness which has been Belgium’s defending. They have 3 top centre backs but Belgium have not been defending well. First of all, Carrasco has been god awful as a LWB and if he plays, Brazil will have a field day on that side. Belgium have allowed Tunisia and Japan to score 2 goals each and not only that but Japan could’ve easily scored 3 or 4 and that leakiness at the back is a worry for Belgium given the type of opponent they’re facing in Brazil. Other than sometimes awful defending, Belgium have shown great character, team unity, goal scoring at will and their bench players stepped up
Let’s begin with Brazil. Brazil have been a very organised side under Tite who have dominated games in solid fashion. Brazil have set out to have two solid DM’s in front of two Centre backs to allow protect the full backs when they bomb forward which they’ve lacked in 2014. Brazil like to play on the front foot, they barely allow the opposition to create chances. In terms of the squad selection against Belgium, Casemiro will be suspended and will be replaced by Fernandinho most likely, just another top class CDM/CM who can slot in and play along Paulinho. Expect Fagner to play RB and Marcelo has been said to be back in contention to start at LB, if not then Filipe Luis will slot in again. Going forward, obviously Neymar and Coutinho will start, expect Willian to play on the right and up front Jesus has been the preferred striker, but don’t be surprised if Firmino takes that spot due to their performances in this tournament. Firmino made bigger impact playing like 300 minutes less which is crazy. The keys for Brazil is to snuff Belgium’s attack like they’ve done to every other team and just keep playing their football. Brazil know they have the best team in the tournament and if they play their game they should win. Exposing Belgium’s full backs is something they got to do going forward because even teams like Japan and Tunisia done so and Brazil have top wingers in Neymar, Willian and even Coutinho likes to go slot in that position from time to time and not to forget Marcelo could play too so given the talent that Brazil have on the wings, they should rip Belgium apart on the sides consistently.
Now onto Belgium. Belgium also love to play attacking football, they have a lot of end to end games and they tend to play through Hazard and de Bruyne who are their main creators and have been producing very well, especially for their striker Lukaku. We can expect Belgium to make some changes in this game because of what happened against Japan. Given the way Carrasco has performed, he will likely get dropped and we may see Mertens dropped so de Bruyne can play further forward which is where he’s most useful and has played his best football this tournament whenever Martinez moved him up there. De Bruyne potentially moving further forward could mean Fellaini may fill in the void at CM alongside Witsel which would also provide more solidity in midfield for Belgium. However, these are just options and Martinez may just elect to go with his regular starting lineup. Expect Belgium to have a go at Brazil, but we will most likely see a more defensive minded team because if they get into an end to end game with Brazil their chances to win wouldn’t be very good because of how great Brazil are all around. The keys for Belgium are they must not lose the midfield battle, Hazard and de Bruyne have to get on the ball as much as possible to create problems for Brazil’s defence and Lukaku can’t afford to ghost in a big game which is something he’s prone to doing at times. At the back, they can’t afford to be leaky like they have all tournament long otherwise the game will be done by halftime because Brazil are way more prolific than anyone else that Belgium have faced.
We’re picking Brazil to win in this game. The problems in Belgium’s defending in this tournament will cost them in this tournament and given the way Brazil attack and defend you’d have to give them more of a chance to shutout Belgium’s attack than Belgium have a chance to shutout Brazil’s attack. In terms of individual talent, Belgium are just as good nearly in every position, but in terms of team play, Brazil are more solid all around and you’d have to give them the edge in this quarter final. We’re going with a 3-1 Brazil win with Neymar and Coutinho putting on world class performances.
ODDS – Decimal
Brazil Win (90 mins) – 2.10
Draw (90 mins) – 3.40
Belgium Win (90 mins) – 3.70
To Qualify – Brazil 1.57 – Belgium 2.37
KICK OFF – 6th July 2018 – 7pm UK Time