The glamour quarterfinal of Russia 2018 features the most successful nation in the World Cup, Brazil, in their 7th consecutive quarterfinal, facing off against Belgium, in only their 3rd ever quarterfinal (and 2nd consecutive one) and a match short of matching their best performance when they reached the semifinal in 1986. Brazil have been a model of consistency, with efficient, if unspectacular results. The veteran centre back pairing of Thiago Silva and Miranda has been solid; in midfield, the contrast of the defensive reliability of Casemiro combined with the superlative attacking touches of maestro Philippe Coutinho has further reinforced Brazilian optimism. And in attack, superstar Neymar, having had to play his way into form following a lengthy injury spell before the World Cup, has proved to be a creative nuisance in addition to receiving extensive attention by reputation as well as his hairstyle and tendency to drop to the pitch. Brazil’s scorelines thus far betray their intent; they’ve had 77 attempts on goal, and 29 on target and intriguingly, the only side that match or better Brazil’s record at this World Cup in this respect are their next opponents.

Brazil vs Belgium Quarterfinal Prediction and Preview

Belgium meanwhile, have had a goal flush tournament; no other side has scored more goals, and their 9 goals from open play (including 3 on the counter attack) are also more than anyone else at the tournament. However, Belgium have tended to appear somewhat systemically vulnerable to goals, something broadly characteristic of manager Roberto Martinez’ style of play. This was no more on display than in their 5 goal thriller against Japan which nearly saw the Belgians experience a surprise exit. On the positives, star Eden Hazard has been superb in the tournament (2 goals, 2 assists), and striker Romelu Lukaku lethal and efficient with 4 goals from just 11 shots. Kevin De Bruyne’s deeper set role has been a positive in attacking respects – no player remaining at the World Cup plays more chance creating passes than him at present. Thomas Meunier has been reliable and creative from his favoured right-sided midfield role, inclusive of 2 assists. Belgium have important issues to solve though; defensive midfielder Axel Witsel has been intermittent and inconsistent, Yannick Carrasco has not solved the issues on the left in a deeper set role, Dries Mertens looks ill-suited to a role drifting to the right and it’s unclear still who the between Vertonghen, Kompany, Alderweireld and Boyata are the preferred centre back options.

Tactical Considerations:

Tite made an interesting change to the system against Mexico, choosing a 442 instead of the 433 formation that had served throughout their group games. The impact favoured winger Willian considerably, who had his best game of the tournament, but compromised the effectiveness of Coutinho, thrown out to the left wing with little effectiveness to enter the centre. Given Belgium’s ill-balance in midfield, Tite may yet consider going back to a 433 to allow his creative star the licence to worry Witsel, but this may come at the expense of the effectiveness of Willian. Another debate will be whether Gabriel Jesus’ goal drought will make Roberto Firmino a better consideration to start. Marcelo’s fitness is still unclear, and given Filipe Luis’ reliable performances, the Real Madrid left back may not be risked.  The only consideration Brazil will be concerned with is changes to drive more dynamism in attack; apart from Douglas Costa, Brazil feel short of creative options from their bench, meaning most of their emphasis to win the game will have to be in the first XI.

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Belgium have yet to stray from the 3421 formation, but will need it to be far more effective at managing Brazil’s attacking danger. Whoever is chosen in the trio at the back, as well as Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne will be key in containing the danger of Neymar and the incisiveness of Coutinho. De Bruyne’s passing vision and Hazard’s dribbling trickery will make for a fascinating clash against the robust pair of Paulinho and Casemiro, and it remains to be seen if the experience Brazilian centre back pairing will handle the physicality and efficiency of Romelu Lukaku. Belgium’s other inherent weakness is their left hand side, where Yannick Carrasco is expected to start but has struggled to adapt to the nuances of the role. That position aside, Belgium’s other strength in this match will be their options from the bench; Nacer Chadli, Marouane Fellaini, Mousa Dembele and Adnan Januzaj all have the capacity to change the game quickly in different ways, and Youri Tielemens is a solid option to boost the midfield if need be. 

Match Facts & Summary

  Brazil Belgium
World Cup Base Sochi Moscow
2014 World Cup Finish Semifinal Quarterfinal
Total Head to Head Record Played 4, Brazil 3 Wins, Belgium 1 Win
Total Head to Head (World Cup Only) Played 1, Brazil 1 Win
Record in World Cup Quarterfinals Played 12, Won 8 Played 2, Won 1
Penalty Shootout Record Won 3 of 4 Won 1 of 1
Odds – Result 1.09 2.72
Odds – To Win World Cup 2.80 (favourite) 6.00 (4th favourite)
Best Odds – Golden Boot Neymar (18.25) Lukaku (9.25)
Best Odds – Golden Ball Neymar (5.00) Hazard (10.00)

 

Our Prediction:

In Belgium’s previous five World Cup knockout round ties, they’ve fallen to South American opposition on three occasions, including the last time these two sides met in 2002 when Brazil beat Belgium 2-0 en route to their 5th world title. Belgium have been a far more potent attacking force in this tournament and while their opponents haven’t always been illustrious, Belgium have nonetheless proved they can create a large number of good quality chances and haven’t found too many issues to find ways to break down stubborn defences. It’s unclear how Brazil will cope with Belgium’s attacking vigor, but if their better balanced side can find a way to achieve that, Brazil have the right ingredients with capable fullbacks, solid protection in midfield, a deadly creator in Coutinho and an aggressive nuisance in Willian on Belgium’s weakest flank. Those factors, combined with the quality of Neymar may well be prove the key to hold Belgium at bay, and proceed into their second consecutive semifinal and their first in a European World Cup since France ’98.

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* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

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