Who: Brazil vs Croatia
Where: Education City Stadium
Keep readinglist of 4 items
When: Friday, December 9, 6pm (15:00 GMT)
Brazil were at their brilliant best on Monday, putting four past South Korea in a devastating first-half display.
The South American team, which tops FIFA’s rankings, will head into Friday’s match against twelfth-placed Croatia on a wave of confidence and high morale.
However, Croatia have proven a difficult team to beat and frustrated many opponents with their knack of dragging out every knockout game to the very end. And as World Cup finalists in 2018, they know how to play and perform in high-pressure matches.
The Croats famously played out three rounds of extra time over the knockout stages on their way to that World Cup final in Russia. This year, they overcame Japan on penalties in the round of 16.
If Brazil enjoy another bright start to this game, they will need to be careful not to let complacency set in, or Croatia could punish them.
Richarlison, Brazil’s top scorer in the tournament so far, enjoyed another fine game against South Korea, netting his third goal in as many games.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar returned from a group-stage injury to put in an impressive performance against South Korea and looks set to play on Saturday.
Even as Brazil look to overwhelm a disciplined Croatian backline with attacking flair, they can also rely on Liverpool’s Alisson in goal and Chelsea’s Thiago Silva at the centre of defence to keep the danger of Croatia’s star playmaker Luka Modric at bay.
Croatia have only conceded two goals so far this tournament, but it could easily have been more if Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku had been able to finish any of his gilt-edged chances in their final group game.
Brazil are undefeated against Croatia in their four previous games. If Croatia break that pattern on Friday, they will enter their third World Cup semi-final. After finishing in third place in 1998, they were runners-up in 2018 and a win over Brazil would allow them to dream of going all the way this time.
But they’re up against the most successful nation in the sport’s history. If Brazil win, they will enter the semi-finals for the ninth time. And if the five-time champions needed any incentive to strive for a sixth world title, the hospitalisation of Pele has served to bind their country, its fans and players in a single prayer to win the World Cup for the legend.
The winner of the Brazil-Croatia quarter-final will play the team that comes out on top in the game between Argentina and the Netherlands, also on Friday.