FIFA World Cup: Brazil vs Belgium preview

Two of the pre-tournament favourites clash in the quarter-finals on Friday evening, five-time world champions Brazil take on Belgium at Kazan Arena. This will be just the second direct meeting between these two nations, the only previous match was at the 2002 World Cup in the round of sixteen and Brazil won it 2-0 with goals from Rivaldo and Ronaldo. That was the last time Brazil won the FIFA World Cup, while Belgium had their best result in 1986, when they reached the semi-finals for the first and last time.

Brazil started the 2018 World Cup with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Switzerland but they turned things around in the final five minutes of the following match, the one against Costa Rica. After 90 minutes the score was 0-0 in the Costa Rica match, things were getting very complicated for Brazil, but Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time and everything changed. In the last group match Brazil grabbed a 2-0 victory over Serbia, while in the round of sixteen they secured a convincing 2-0 victory over Mexico. Casemiro picked up his second yellow card of the tournament during the last match, so he will be suspended for the quarter-final clash, but Marcelo and Danilo could recover from injury to play on Friday. Striker Gabriel Jesus has not scored any goals so far and he might be replaced by Roberto Firmino in the starting eleven.

Belgium cruised through the group stage with three consecutive wins, nine goals scored and two conceded, but they had to survive a huge scare in the first knockout round. Underdogs Japan held Belgium in check throughout the first half and then struck twice after the break, leaving Belgium with a mountain to climb. However, coach Roberto Martinez and his players climbed that mountain and scored three goals in the last 20 minutes of the match. The Spanish coach doesn't have any injury concerns ahead of Saturday's match but he surely is worried about the poor level of defending that his team has shown against Japan. Nacer Chadli had an impressive performance as a substitute against Japan and he might replace Yannick Ferreira Carrasco on the right wing.

Probable line-ups:

Brazil: Alisson - Fagner, T. Silva, Miranda, Marcelo - Paulinho, Fernandinho, Coutinho - Willian, Firmino, Neymar

Belgium: Courtois - Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen - Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Chadli - Mertens, Hazard - Lukaku

My prediction: Brazil to win 3-2, the Belgium defence doesn't seem capable of coping with the Brazilians, but they can do some damage at the other end of the pitch.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Brazil win - 2.10
Draw - 3.50
Belgium win - 3.75

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