In what is perhaps billed as the tie of the quarter-finals, two crowd favourites Brazil and Belgium will battle each other for a place among the World Cup’s final four.
Brazil head into this tie with significant weight on their shoulders. Having exited the tournament at this very stage, in two of the last three editions they’ve participated, the onus will be on Tite’s men to put their best foot forward in an effort to ring the hallowed trophy back to Brazilian soil.
Neymar will be touted to light up the stage again, with the PSG forward scoring two goals in four matches at this world cup. Tite will scarcely change his team’s set-up ahead of this crunch clash.
A 4-3-3 can be expected from the Selecao with Gabriel Jesus and Willian completing a solid front three. The unsung heroes in this Brazilian campaign have been the midfielders with Casemiro, Paulinho adding rigidity and discipline to Philippe Coutinho’s evident flair and creativity. However, Fernandinho is expected to cover for the suspended Real Madrid midfielder after he picked up a second yellow of the tournament against the Mexicans.
The Brazilian rear-guard are expected to be challenged for the first time with the power of Romelu Lukaku and the alacrity of Eden Hazard on the ball. Thiago Silva and Joao Miranda are expected to be gatekeepers to Alisson’s goal, while Felipe Luis and Fagner will deputise on the left and right flank respectively.
If Brazil have had a relatively smooth sailing to the final eight of the tournament, Belgium handed their fans significant heart palpitations in their round of 16 tie versus Japan. Falling 2-0 behind in the second half, Roberto Martinez’s tactical changes did wonders to the Red Devils as they eventually won 3-2, thanks to a last-gasp Nacer Chadli goal.
The Spanish coach will, however, be aware that no more gaffes could be tolerated if his side are to burnish their favourites tag and bring home the World Cup.
Martinez will pursue his 3-4-2-1 formation, with Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld making up the defence, ahead of Thibaut Courtois.
Midfield will consist of Yannick Carrasco, Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne, with Thomas Meunier acting as a right-wingback. Eden Hazard has yet to set the tournament alight but the stage is set for him, as Dries Mertens will look to aid his compatriot behind Romelu Lukaku.
Belgium seem to have a set plan B with the aggression and height of Marouane Fellaini coming to the fore in the last match.
Do Brazil have enough in them to add to the five stars on their crest and make it a sixth World Cup win? Or can Belgium spring a trap which might trump an in-form Brazil.
In what is expected to be a humdinger, catch all the action from the Kazan Arena, at 2.00 AM Malaysia time (July 7).