Brazil vs Belgium – Friday, July 6, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia
After convincingly beating Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16 Brazil keep marching on towards their sixth World Cup title. After three wins in a row at this tournament Brazil are by many considered the side to beat.
At the same time, the Seleção have not faced a real test at this tournament and also had periods of shakiness in their matches against Switzerland, Costa Rica and even Mexico. Despite only conceding six goals in ten CONMEBOL qualification games there is a sense that Brazil’s backline could be overwhelmed by one of the bigger sides at this tournament.
Another question mark is the fitness of left-back Marcelo, who missed the game against Mexico, and the absence of Casemiro. The Real Madrid midfielder is suspended for the next match after receiving his second yellow card of the tournament and will be replaced by Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho.
Casemiro, in particular, has been important when it comes to cover up Brazil’s obvious defensive shortcomings. Thankfully, for Brazil head coach Tite Manchester City play very similar to Brazil, with plenty of ball possession and quick wingers, and Fernandinho should have no issues slotting into the line-up.
Brazil’s tactics, however, will be seriously tested against Belgium. After the likes of Spain and Germany went out early, there has been a conception that ball possession football has died at this World Cup.
Against smaller sides Belgium naturally dominated possession. That will, however, not be the case against Brazil on Friday. Roberto Martinez’s flexible 3-2-4-1 formation is designed for a quick transition game. With several fast midfielders, the Diables Rouges have the players to hit Brazil in the transition game and truly test the Seleção – a good example of this tactic can be found in Belgium’s last minute winner against Japan.
At the same time, Belgium have their very own shortcomings. The three-man defence has looked shaky against Japan, and a talented attacking-lineup like Brazil could rip apart Belgium if they do not manage to be better organised than it was the case against the Blue Samurai.
It has, therefore, been suggested that Roberto Martinez could switch his lineup back to a 4-2-3-1, as predecessor Marc Wilmots practised it. But changing lineups ahead of a critical match has its very own dangers and, therefore, expect Martinez to keep the status quo rather than experimenting now.
As a result, this could be a wide open match with plenty of goals. Both teams are also very evenly matched, which suggests that this game could go into overtime or even penalties.
Brazil vs Belgium – Players to look out for:
Neymar #10 – Brazil (Paris Saint-Germain)
No player has been more discussed at this World Cup than the Brazilian Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain striker has managed 57 goals in 89 national team games and has already scored two goals and two assists in four games at this tournament. But instead of his endless talent observers are mostly annoyed by his on fields theatrics. Neymar rolling on the ground follows every foul and every touch by an opponent. “[Neymar] looked like he was dying,” Peter Schmeichel on RT’s World Cup show. “I thought he’d be put on a stretcher and put in an ambulance and we’d never see him again,” Schmeichel added. For Neymar, the time is now to leave antics aside and show the globe his world-class talent.
Kevin de Bruyne #7 – Belgium (Manchester City)
What to do with Kevin de Bruyne? Whereas for Manchester City de Bruyne plays in a number eight role the 27-year-old midfielder operates further back for Belgium. As a result, his attributes of tempo, precision and creativity are lost at times when he plays for the Diablo Rouges and, as a result, there has been a major debate on his role in the national team. “We play with two central midfielders and ahead of them, we have Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens. My position is between those two positions when I play for City. But if I play like that the national team would lack in balance,” de Bruyne explained to the media on Wednesday. At the same time, the question is whether Martinez is wasting de Bruyne’s talent? That question can only be answered on the pitch on Friday when Belgium face their toughest opponent yet in Brazil.
Brazil vs Belgium – Match Stats
- Brazil and Belgium meet for the fifth time. Belgium won the first match in 1963 and Brazil won the other four games.
- The only previous World Cup game took place in 2002 with Brazil beating Belgium 2-0 in the round of 16.
- Belgium have lost three of their last four World Cup matches against South American opposition.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Brazil vs Belgium – 4-2 (after extra time)
Brazil vs Belgium – Lineups
Alisson – Marcelo, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Fagner – Fernandinho – Neymar, Coutinho, Paulinho, Willian – Gabriel Jesus
Head Coach: Tite
Courtois – Verthonghen, Kompany, Alderweireld – De Bruyne, Witsel – Chadli, E. Hazard, Mertens, Meunier – Lukaku
Head Coach: Roberto Martinez
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.