It is difficult to laud Belgium’s dramatic winner in the round-of-16 tie against Japan without wondering how the side went two goals behind. Belgium’s blitz through the group stages masked the flaws of the talented side, heavily imbued with an attacking mentality. It took a determined and fearless Japan side to highlight the foibles.
When attacking, Belgium are an accomplished side segueing into different attacking phases, showing fluidity in attack and ruthless prolificness.
Watching the Belgians in full attacking flow is of top aesthetic value, with the abundance of talent combining smoothly.
However, Belgium’s central spine is not as tough as it should be with Kevin De Bruyne playing alongside Axel Witsel in the central midfield. Understandably, Roberto Martinez seeks to fit his best players into the team and the team transitions better with the Manchester City midfielder in place. However, the weaknesses of the side could be further exposed against Brazil.
Brazil have been efficient at the tournament, solid defensively and productive in attack. The directness of Neymar and Willian in attack alongside the intelligent movement and measured passing of Phillipe Coutinho has worked a charm for the Selecao.
They definitely are not as exciting as the previous Brazilian teams but Tite’s side have the right amount of charm and pragmatism to go all the way.
Although, the individual elements in the central defense of the Red Devils is wholly impressive but the reaction as a unit, when faced with a talented attacking side, might be inadequate especially against Brazil.
There will be a fair amount of worry as right wingback Thomas Meunier could be faced with Neymar, Marcelo and the occasional drifts of Coutinho. Also, on the other wing, Yannick Carrasco will have to play a defensive blinder to rein in the energetic Willian.
Brazil’s solidity will be impacted by the unavailability of Casemiro due to suspension. Though his replacement Fernandinho can put in a good shift, he could be mismatched faced against his club team-mate De Bryune. A lot depends on coach Martinez to meld the right mentality and balance for Belgium as they face their toughest test yet.
Brazil: Alisson; Fagner, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Paulinho; Willian, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Thomas Meunier; Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku