Brazil and Croatia will kickstart the Qatar World Cup quarterfinals on December 9 at the Education City Stadium.
Croatia, the 2018 runner-up, comes into this match hoping to erase its no-win record against the South American giant. For that, the Luka Modric-led side would need to brush aside the strains of its draining penalty shootout win over Japan in the round of 16.
Brazil, on the other hand, strides in after an electrifying attacking display against South Korea.
Here are some key player battles which will define the game:
Neymar vs Marcelo Brozovic
When Neymar suffered an ankle injury in the first game, Brazil fans would have feared the worst. In 2014, Neymar’s injury eventually snowballed into a calamitous 1-7 defeat to Germany.
But, fortunately for Brazil, Neymar bounced back from the setback and played a key role in his side’s 4-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16.
The man tasked with reigning in Neymar for the quarterfinal will be the Croatian workhorse Marcelo Brozovic.
In a Croatian generation blessed with some incredible midfielders, Brozovic is the least talked about. It is mostly down to his lack of flair compared to compatriots Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic.
But what he lacks in skills, he makes up for with his steel. Against Japan, he covered 16.7kms, breaking his own record of 16.3 km set against England in 2018.
If Brozovic fails to rein in the skilful Neymar, the Croatians will have an uphill battle against the endless pool of Brazilian attack.
Richarlison vs Josko Gvardiol
Richarlison has taken up the mantle as Brazil’s number 9, with three goals, two of them contenders for the goal of the tournament, so far.
For Croatia, 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol has been a rock at the heart of the defence and is in the sights of several top-tier European teams.
Gvardiol, who is easily identifiable thanks to his black mask, has shown composure beyond his age.
Richarlison’s biggest test of the World Cup will come against imposing Gvardiol, who will be looking to tame another elite forward.
Casemiro vs Luka Modric
Former teammates, Casemiro and Luka Modric, have often been accomplices for Real Madrid for many a midfield battle. But on Friday, the duo will go head to head to determine the destiny of the game.
Casemiro has been one of the stars of the tournament for Brazil, with his winner against Switzerland capping his contributions.
His presence in the midfield has provided Brazil with a sense of calm and stability for its attacking talents to flourish.
Meanwhile, Modric is going at it at 37, with him still at the heart of it all for Croatia. He has made seven interceptions (only three players have made more) and 32 recoveries (eighth best) in the World Cup so far.
Brazil’s and Croatia’s progression in the tournament will rely heavily on the midfield battle between this duo.
FIFA WORLD CUP RELATED STORIES
- Check out Sportstar’s coverage of World Cup in Qatar
- Scan the World Cup in pictures
- Football fans, put your skills to the test with FIFA World Cup Quiz
- Soak in the rich history of the football World Cup
- WATCH: What’s happening in Qatar and who is saying what
- Here are some of the most frequently asked questions
- Champions League 2023: Early qualification delights Atletico coach Simeone
- Vijay Hazare Trophy 2023 LIVE Score, Round 4: Tamil Nadu beats Baroda; Mumbai, Saurashtra win; Bengal beats MP by 194 runs
- BCCI extends contract of India head coach Rahul Dravid and support staff
- NBA roundup: Kings stun Warriors, advance in tournament
- India to tour Sri Lanka in July-August, 2024 for six-match white-ball series