A place in the 2022 World Cup semi-finals is on the line as Croatia and Brazil square off at Education City Stadium on Friday at 3.00 pm.
Despite being given the long odds to dump the pre-tournament favourites in this eye-catching quarter-final tie, the Blazers are daring the dream big again following their memorable exploits in Russia four years ago.
However, Zlatko Dalic’s men have already got away with some lethargic performances in Qatar, most recently edging Japan on penalties in the round of 16.
Dominik Livakovic became only the third goalkeeper to thwart three spot-kicks in a World Cup shoot-out to inspire Croatia’s dream run to the competition’s quarter-finals for the second time on the trot.
Worryingly for the Europeans, three of their four matches in the Middle East this winter have seen them score under 1.5 goals, suggesting they’re chiefly relying on their defensive set-up to carry them through.
But while the 2018 World Cup runners-up have proved a tough nut to crack on international football’s most prominent stage, Tite’s Brazil have the means to break them down.
A mesmeric first-half showing saw the Selecao put four unanswered goals past South Korea in their round-of-16 tie before Seung-Ho Paik’s long-range stunner completed a 4-1 scoreline.
Brazil’s assured performance enabled them to slip into second gear and save gas in the tank for this fixture as they aim to lock down a place in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2014.
Reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the third time has proved Croatia’s credentials at this stage, but there’s a piece of unwanted history threatening to hunt them down in Al Rayyan.
The Blazers have found themselves on the losing side in four of their five World Cup clashes against nations from the CONMEBOL region, barring a 3-0 humbling of Argentina in the 2018 group stages.
However, they’ve already shown they know how to play competitive games at this level, with seven of their last eight knockout ties at major international tournaments going to extra time.
Brazil would be well advised to avoid going into penalties here, considering Croatia have progressed from all three previous World Cup shoot-outs.
Since beating Germany 2-0 in the iconic 2002 grand final, the Brazilians have lost five successive matches against European teams in the World Cup knockout stages, including three quarter-final ties in that run.
That’s an ominous sign for Tite’s men, though their impressive run of ten wins from their last 11 outings (L1) can settle some nerves and inspire their hopes of reaching the World Cup semis for the ninth time.
Croatia vs Brazil Head-to-Head
There’s more reason for enthusiasm in Tite’s corner, as Brazil have won both previous World Cup encounters against Croatia, 3-1 and 1-0, respectively.
On top of that, the formidable H2H record has seen the Selecao avoid defeat in the other two matches (W1, D1), most recently beating the Croatians 2-0 in a friendly in 2018.
Croatia vs Brazil Team News
Apart from Bayern Munich’s Josip Stanisic, who’s yet to make an appearance in Qatar, Croatia suffered a massive injury blow in the build-up to their last-16 tie against Japan.
Borna Sosa suffers from the illness, which robbed Croatia of a critical attacking influence against the Japanese, with the Stuttgart left-back remaining a major doubt for this game.
If that’s not enough to slow Dalic’s team down, Dejan Lovren, Luka Modric, Borna Barisic and Mateo Kovacic are all on yellow cards, meaning they’ll have to avoid reckless challenges.
As for Brazil, Alex Telles and Gabriel Jesus are ruled out with injuries, with Juventus defender Alex Sandro still carrying a question mark over his head.
Tite’s men have had an exemplary tournament in terms of fair play, with only Fred and Eder Militao at risk of missing out on the semi-finals in case of being booked here.
Croatia vs Brazil Potential Line-ups
Croatia (4-3-3): Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Barisic; Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Andrej Kramaric, Marko Livaja, Ivan Perisic.
Brazil (4-3-3): Alisson; Eder Militao, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Danilo; Lucas Paqueta, Casemiro, Neymar; Raphinha, Richarlison, Vinicius Junior.
Croatia vs Brazil Prediction
With all due respect to Croatia’s impressive efforts to go this far in Qatar, Brazil should have this in the bag every day of the week.
Croatia 1-3 Brazil
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