MX23RW : Wednesday, September 26 03:27:55

Preview: Brazil vs. Belgium - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted XIs, team news and a full match preview for the World Cup quarter-final clash between Brazil and Belgium.

Brazil head into their World Cup quarter-final showdown with Belgium looking to extend a 15-match unbeaten streak as they aim to move closer to winning a sixth Jules Rimet trophy.

Belgium produced the comeback of the tournament to defeat Japan in the last 16, but can Roberto Martinez's side raise their game in order to avoid a second successive defeat at this stage of the competition?


Brazil

Brazil manager Tite on June 3, 2018© Reuters

While almost all of their rivals have already been eliminated from the tournament or involved in all-time classic matches, Brazil have been going about their business with minimal fuss and are deservedly regarded as the favourites for a sixth crown.

The results of Tite's side have not necessarily been spectacular with 2-0 victories being recorded over each of Costa Rica, Serbia and Mexico, but unlike in the past, this is a team who takes pride in the defensive side of the game as well as the flicks and tricks in the final third.

Nevertheless, while Brazil have shipped just one goal and scored seven of their own, chances are being created on a regular basis and there will be that moment in this tournament where everything clicks for the frightening foursome in attack.

Philippe Coutinho has arguably been the pick of the bunch with important goals in the opening two matches and an assist for the opener against Serbia, but Willian and Neymar are proving to be a constant threat and Gabriel Jesus is warming into the competition.

Whether the latter keeps his place in the starting lineup remains to be seen but Tite has options in reserve that he has not really turned to and going forward, there is going to be a freshness about any players who are promoted from the bench.

The time has probably passed where Tite will willingly make alterations to the centre of his defence, with Thiago Silva and Miranda - both of whom will be 34 in September - defying their age to contribute to a defensive record of just one goal being conceded in eight games.

At any level, that is a phenomenal return and although Brazil are missing Casemiro in the front of their backline for this encounter, Brazil still have all the fundamentals in place to nullify the threat being offered by Belgium.

In terms of contenders for the World Cup, this is Brazil's first real test but if they can overcome a side who have quickly made the transition from dark horses to a team fancied for the title, Brazil will only grow in confidence as they look for redemption from four years ago.

Recent form: WWDWWW


Belgium

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez on October 10, 2017© Reuters

When Belgium went two goals behind against Japan, it appeared that Martinez and his squad would disappoint on the biggest stage at a time when they are considered one of the strongest teams remaining in the competition.

However, while Brazil will naturally take confidence from seeing the Red Devils struggle against a team perceived to be one of the weakest in the last 16, Belgium will be on a high after their fightback in the final quarter.

Belgium have now conceded two goals in half of their matches at this tournament but going forward, they look to be full of goals and the European nation have now scored three of more goals in nine of their last dozen outings.

The likes of Portugal and England have limited Belgium in the final third - suggesting that they remain relatively unproven against the best defensive sides - but Martinez's charrges will not be overawed by the challenge of trying to breach Brazil's backline.

Both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are key for Belgium - the pair have six strikes and two assists between them in Russia - but goals are being netted and created from all over the pitch.

At the back, the return of Vincent Kompany is a welcome one and the centre-back will relish a duel with Man City teammate Jesus, but the captain may need to ensure that a balance is kept in the middle of the pitch in order to deal with the flair which will come from Friday's opponents.

In theory, Kompany and the rest of the squad will be fresher with just goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois having started every game, and it has left Martinez knowing that the majority of his squad are match-sharp.

With Belgium expected to name an unchanged team, that is unlikely to come into play until the latter stages, but it has the potential to become pivotal as the fixture progresses in Kazan.

Recent form: WWWWWW


Team News

Brazil's Neymar during the game against Switzerland on June 17, 2018© Reuters

Neymar will take his place in the starting lineup but Tite is expected to make two alterations to the team which defeated Mexico on Monday.

Casemiro is suspended so Manchester City's Fernandinho is likely to act as the most defensive-minded player of a midfield three.

Marcelo has also recovered from issues with his back, so the left-sided defender should come in for Filipe Luis.

As for Belgium, Martinez is not expected to make any changes to his team, despite their struggles in their second-round clash with Japan.

Kompany will captain the team barring any late fitness issues having been recalled earlier this week, while Axel Witsel should get the nod over Mousa Dembele.

Brazil possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Fagner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Paulinho, Fernandinho, Coutinho; Willian, Jesus, Neymar

Belgium possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Meunier, Witsel, De Bruyne, Carrasco; Mertens, E.Hazard; Lukaku


Head To Head

Friday's match will represent the fifth meeting between the two nations, with Brazil registering three victories and Belgium just the one.

Belgium prevailed 5-1 in the first-ever fixture in 1963, with Brazil's first two triumphs coming in friendlies in 1965 and 1988 respectively.

Their one and only competitive contest was staged at the 2002 World Cup as goals from Rivaldo and Ronaldo gave Brazil a 2-0 success in Kobe.


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We say: Brazil 2-2 Belgium

Brazil may possess the joint-best defensive record of the remaining teams at this tournament, but we cannot ignore the fact that Belgium arguably have the best attack. This match has all the makings of a classic and we think that penalties will be required to separate the two sides, with Brazil just edging it.


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Who will win Friday's World Cup quarter-final clash between Brazil and Belgium?

Brazil
Draw
Belgium
Brazil
50.6%
Draw
12.8%
Belgium
36.6%
Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar in action during the World Cup warm-up match against Croatia at Anfield on June 3, 2018
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