Brazil are a veteran when it comes to international football and Belgium have had a brilliant stint in this tournament
The FIFA World Cup in Russia has been one of the most exciting and is set for a nitro boost when five-time champions Brazil take on red hot Belgium in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Few can match the legacy of Brazil, which has given us greats like Socrates, Pele, Zico and Garrincha to name a few. They were held by a resolute Switzerland in their first match, but notched up three 2-0 wins on the trot threafter to saunter into the quarter-finals and are well on course for a jaw-dropping sixth world title.
Belgium, on the other hand, which had come into the tournament as more than a dark horse, notched up an all-win record in the group stages. No other team apart from Belgium, Uruguay and Croatia could achieve this feat. The Red Devils, however, were given a stern test by perceived lightweights, Japan in the Round of 16, before they came back from the edge to win 3-2.
The game promises much as they two sides up against each other are both known for their tremendous attacking flair, much of which is driven by their big stars.
On Friday, all eyes would be on these stars, who have stepped up when required. Criticised by fans for being underpar, Neymar stepped up to the plate against Mexico and scored the goal that took Brazil to the quarter-finals. Firmino will be expecting to start as Neymar's partner upfront, ahead of Gabriel Jesus who looks to be a bit out of form. The Liverpool striker came on as a substitute in the 85th minute against Mexico and took only a minute to score the second goal of the game.
There are several points, however, that both coaches need to look into.
Belgium, notwithstanding their attacking abilities, need to tighten up their defence. The first goal that they conceded against Japan could have been avoided had Jan Vertonghen not missed a crucial interception. Belgium conceded an easy goal against Tunisia as well. Yannick Carrasco and Vincent Kompany have also looked out of sorts.
Belgium will find it very hard to make an impact if Brazil are allowed to impose themselves in the middle of the park. Coach Roberto Martinez would be better off with a 4-3-3 formation, with Vertonghen at the left back and Mousa Dembele in the midfield with Axel Witsel, instead of the 3-4-2-1 that he usually employs. This will give them stability and help them to have a control in the midfield.
Brazil, on the other hand, are plagued by suspensions and injuries. With an update on Marcelo's fitness is yet to arrive, suspension of Casemiro would add additional pressure on coach Tite. And even though Danilo was fit for the previous match, Tite opted for Fagner to start at the right-back position who was bullied by Mexico's wingers for the opening quarter.
Fernandinho will be likely to replace Casemiro at the heart of the midfield and will have the big duty to nullify his Manchester City teammate Kevin De Bruyne. Filipe Luiz is a world-class left-back but does not have the attacking attributes of Marcelo. Brazil would be worried if Marcelo is not able to get fit for the quarter-finals.
The biggest challenge for Brazil would be to contain players like Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku who have already shown what they are capable of. A lot of Brazil's fortunes in this match would depend upon the whether Neymar brings his A-game to the pitch or not.
It is a match worthy of the World Cup final. One can hardly wait.
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Last Updated 17, Dec 2018, 1:43 PM