Brazil reaffirmed their status as favourites to win the World Cup in Qatar when they scored four first-half goals against Korea Republic in the Round of 16, though a more dogged Croatian outfit could pose a trickier test for the Seleção in today’s Quarter-Final.
Tite’s dancing Brazilians weaved some magical attacking patterns in the previous round, however, Croatia have taken four of their last five knockout phase opponents at World Cups to extra time and they know how to batten down the hatches.
This afternoon’s showdown at the Education City Stadium has all the makings of an intriguing contest and below, we’ve compiled an info-laden stats pack to help you tackle those bet builder markets with more confidence. If you want to learn more about how to get the data to work harder for you, check out my Stats Pack Guide.
Defenders Borna Sosa and Josip Stanisic sat out Croatia’s penalty shootout victory over Japan in the previous round due to illness and injury, though Sosa could be back in contention today. Borna Barisic will stand in at left-back again if Sosa doesn’t make the cut, however.
Head Coach Zlatko Dalic is unlikely to spring any tactical surprises against Brazil, so expect the Vatreni to be deployed in their tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation.
Gabriel Jesus and Alex Telles both picked up knee injuries in Qatar to end their World Cup tournament prematurely. Left-back Alex Sandro remains a doubt with a hip complaint leaving Danilo to reprise his role there.
Tite won’t want to rock the boat too much following Brazil’s emphatic win against Korea Republic and he could name an unchanged XI to face the Croatians.
Unlike Brazil, Croatia have yet to taste defeat in Qatar and though they have conceded the same number of goals as their South American antagonists (two), the Vatreni’s xG against figure (1.28 to 0.75 p/90) has been considerably higher.
Of the eight nations competing in the competition’s quarter-finals, only the Netherlands (12) have been conceding more shots per 90 than Croatia, while only the Oranje and Morocco have been clocking fewer attempts at the opposite end.
As you’d expect, given the breadth of talent in their ranks, Brazil have excelled as an attacking force in Qatar and their consistently incisive approach play was finally rewarded by a suitable goal haul against the Korea Republic.
Only Germany have mustered more attempts per 90 than Brazil at the World Cup (18.50) and the Seleção have burst through the 20-shot ceiling in two of their four matches so far. Brazil have been drawing plenty of cards (2.50) from frustrated markers, while their xG for (2.43 (p/90) suggests they have even more potential to fulfil in the final third.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Marko Livaja has made the most of his limited minutes across two starts and two substitute appearances in Qatar, though the 29-year-old was kept on the bench until extra time against Japan in the previous round, which suggests he will be down the pecking order again today.
Tournament veteran, Ivan Perisic, represents one of several better options in the shot market against Brazil. The 33-year-old has been revelling in a more advanced role and Perisic has had 10 attempts at the World Cup, 50% of which were racked up against Japan last week.
Midfield Maestro Luka Modric could also be worth backing from a deeper position. Modric has had at least one attempt in three of his World Cup appearances and 75% of his efforts have hit the target. The 37-year-old is available at around 7/4 with Paddy Power to hit the mark with at least one shot this afternoon.
You can really take your pick from Brazil’s fearsome foursome in attack in the shot markets and Vinicius Junior, Neymar, Richarlison and Raphinha racked up a palm-stinging 12 attempts and seven shots on target between them against Korea Republic in the Round of 16.
The bookmakers have priced the markets accordingly however, so it might be worth looking further down the pitch for more palatable odds and West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta could fit the bill. The playmaker was a constant, menacing presence in the box against the Koreans, lodging two shots on target over the course of his impactful display.
Player Goals and Assists
Ivan Perisic scored Croatia’s crucial equalizer against Japan in the previous round, though the 33-year-old also wields potent powers in the realm of chance creation and he has collected two assists in Qatar. Perisic also tops the pile for his country for shot-creating actions (11).
Andrej Kramarić scored both of his goals in one sitting against Canada and the 31-year-old knows how to convert chances if they fall his way. His haul of two goals from just three shots on target at the World Cup is further testament to that.
Vinicius Junior, Neymar and Lucas Paqueta all broke their World Cup ducks against the hapless South Koreans, though Richarlison scored the goal of the game when he finished off a flowing move filled with crisp one-touch passes.
The 25-year-old’s goal-getting record for Brazil (20 in 41 games) is phenomenal and his 57.1% shots-on-target hit rate and 2.1 xG in Qatar mark him out as the one to watch in the anytime stakes again today. Richarlison carries a more generous price than Neymar, which should earn him the nod in most people’s coupons.
On the right flank, Raphinha leads the way for expected assists (1.3) and for shot-creating actions (19) which suggests a first actual World Cup assist could be in the works soon.
Brazilian players have been fouled over 50 times in Qatar so far, making the South Americans one of the tournament’s most-hacked at sides and that in turn should open up some opportunities in the card markets today.
Marcelo Brosovic hasn’t been carded at the World Cup just yet, though the holding midfielder ranks joint-second for Croatia for total fouls committed (seven) and a first caution could be in the works today.
33-year-old centre-half Dejan Lovren has been booked once in Qatar, as has Borna Barisic at left-back, and both defenders will face an abundance of pace and trickery today.
Neymar has been fouled twice as often as any other Brazilian player in Qatar despite playing only twice and the superstar’s silky skills could draw some hefty challenges from Brozovic today in the pockets of space between the Croatian’s defence and midfield.
Richarlison’s (1.85) all-action style and goal threat should invite a clattering tackle or two from Dejan Lovren, while Raphinha will take every opportunity to tease Barisic with his technique after the latter’s nervy showing against Japan (five fouls & yellow card).
Match-Ups to watch
Marcelo Brosovic vs Neymar
Dejan Lovren vs Richarlison
Borna Barisic vs Raphinha
Casemiro is the only defensive specialist in Brazil’s first-choice front six and the experienced 30-year-old will know that he will have to be at his sharpest to combat former Real Madrid clubmate Luka Modric in midfield.
Casemiro has avoided a booking in Qatar so far, though he is joint-first for Brazil for total fouls committed (five). Elsewhere, Éder Militão (1.85 fouls p/90) might be of interest. The right-back prefers to play more centrally and though he has been largely untroubled so far, he will face a specialist winger for the first time at the World Cup in Ivan Perisic today.
Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic (six times) have been fouled more often than any of their Croatian counterparts at the World Cup and Casemiro will have his studs sharpened ahead of meeting that influential pair in the midfield battleground today.
Casemiro is acutely aware of Modric’s match-changing passing range after their hugely successful time together at Real Madrid, so expect the 30-year-old to hit his ex-teammate hard this afternoon.
Brazilian Head Coach Tite will have identified Ivan Perisic as one of Croatia’s biggest dangermen today and Éder Militão could be carded in his attempts to keep the Spurs winger on the periphery of the contest.
Match-Ups to watch
Casemiro vs Luka Modric
Éder Militão vs Ivan Perisic
Casmeiro vs Mateo Kovačić
Marcelo Brosovic has been one of Croatia’s pass-masters in Qatar and his penchant for playing simple, short passes has kept his figures high (86.0 p/90). Indeed, the 30-year-old has attempted 191 short passes at the World Cup compared to Luka Modric’s 123 and Josko Gvardiol’s 115.
Croatia usually look to Modric (1st for progressive passes – 27) when more imagination in possession is required, though Brosovic could be the one to look to in the passing markets today for his raw overall output.
Brazil have controlled just under 60% of the possession in their World Cup fixtures to date and they will expect to enjoy the lion’s share in that metric again this afternoon.
Centre-halves Thiago Silva (81.7) and Marquinhos (80.00) both tend to see a lot of the ball due to Brazil’s patient build-up play through the first two thirds of the pitch, while Casemiro is their chief conduit in midfield.
Silva (87), Marquinhos (77) and Casemiro (73) ranked in positions one through three for total passes played against Korea Republic and while any member of that axis is worthy of inclusion in your coupon today, Casemiro represents the best value. You can back the Man Utd star to play over 70 passes at even money with Paddy Power.