Brazil vs Croatia FIFA World Cup Quarterfinal: Key player battles to watch out for

Three key player battles to watch out for in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinal between Brazil and Croatia.

Neymar’s Brazil and Modric’s Croatia will battle it out for the first semifinal spot of the tournament.

Neymar’s Brazil and Modric’s Croatia will battle it out for the first semifinal spot of the tournament. | Photo Credit: GABRIEL BOUYS

Three key player battles to watch out for in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinal between Brazil and Croatia.

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

Brazil's Neymar grabs his ankle after an injury during the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia, at the the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Brazil's Neymar grabs his ankle after an injury during the World Cup group G soccer match between Brazil and Serbia, at the the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP) | Photo Credit: LAURENT GILLIERON

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.

Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol in action with Japan’s Takuma Asano.

Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol in action with Japan’s Takuma Asano. | Photo Credit: Hamad I Mohammed

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.

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