Brazil v Belgium: Neymar can fire steady South Americans into final four

Brazil forward Neymar
Neymar will hope to inspire Brazil
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Jack Lang is expecting Tite's men to get the job done against a defensively suspect Red Devils side...

"You would predict a more circumspect approach from most managers, but this is Roberto Martínez, so Belgium's best chance here is probably to turn this into a slugging contest"

Brazil v Belgium
Friday, 19:00
Live on BBC One

Seleção looking imperious

Four down, three to go: that's the balance sheet so far for Tite's Brazil side. And while you might accuse another team looking at it that way of counting their chickens (cough cough England cough), the reality is that the Seleção arrived in Russia with the clear ambition of securing the Hexacampeonato - their much-anticipated sixth title. The fate of Germany, Argentina and Spain has only strengthened the feeling that the World Cup is there for the taking.

It's now three 2-0 wins on the spin, each slightly more impressive than the last. For now, Brazil are still very much a 'moments' team, really coming to life in three or four devastating spells rather than dominating games from start to finish. But when your defence is as solid as theirs (Alisson has only made four saves all tournament), those moments are usually going to be enough.

The bad news for Brazil ahead of this quarter-final is that Casemiro, the defensive watchdog in midfield, serves a suspension. But Fernandinho is a superb deputy, and Tite has been boosted by the return of Marcelo after a back issue. The Real Madrid man has been given the nod at left-back, despite Filipe Luís performing well when covering.

Belgium won't die wondering

Whatever you think of Roberto Martínez's managerial acumen, you cannot deny the entertainment value of his teams. Belgium are the top-scorers in Russia, with 12 from their four games to date, while their only clean sheet came against an England reserve side, minus shooting boots. The last-16 game against Japan summed them up perfectly: there were gaps and signs of weakness everywhere, but also the individual quality to dig them out of a hole.

In normal circumstances, you would predict a more circumspect approach against stronger opponents. But it's not clear whether Martínez has that in his locker, so Belgium's best chance here is probably to turn this into a slugging contest and hope that their attacking big-hitters land more telling blows. Much, then, will turn on whether Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne can unlock one of the tournament's best backlines.

Brazil to book semi-final spot

Brazil, you imagine, will have been salivating at the sight of Japan tearing Belgium apart on Monday night. Huge spaces opened up down the flanks and in front of the back four, and it's hard not to see Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and a revived Willian enjoying themselves on the counter-attack when the Red Devils commit men forward.

At the other end, Thiago Silva and Miranda will offer far more resistance to Belgium's forwards than the defenders of Panama, Tunisia and Japan mustered. It might not be enough for Brazil to keep a fourth straight clean sheet, but they look like good value to win this inside 90 minutes at [2.2].

Brazil Guts Smarts.png

Neymar can explode into life

He was roundly - and rightly - criticised for his play-acting against Mexico, but Neymar also put in another sparky display in attack for Brazil, opening the scoring and teeing up Roberto Firmino's late second.

The Paris Saint-Germain man is clearly finding his rhythm after a slow recovery from injury and will want to make his mark in the knockout stages having been forced out of Brazil's last World Cup quarter-final, against Colombia four years ago. [2.38] is a good price given his record.

Jack Lang's World Cup P/L

Staked: 7pts
Returned: 5.42pts
P/L: -1.58pts

Key Opta Stats for Brazil v Belgium

This will be the fifth meeting between these sides. Belgium won the first back in a 1963 friendly, while Brazil have won the following three meetings. Brazil are [2.2] to win again.

The only previous occasion these sides met in a World Cup was in the round of 16 in 2002, with Brazil winning 2-0 en route to winning the entire competition. Another 2-0 win for Brazil is priced at [12.00].

Belgium have lost three of their last four World Cup meetings against South American opposition. Brazil are [1.63] in the To Qualify market.

Brazil have been knocked out of the World Cup by a European side in each of the last three tournaments (vs France in 2006, Netherlands in 2010 and Germany in 2014). Belgium are [2.56] to eliminate the Brazilians.

Belgium have scored 12 goals so far in the 2018 World Cup – at no single tournament in the competition have they scored more (also 12 in 1986). Over 2.5 goals is [2.08].

Brazil are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions (W11 D4), conceding just three goals in that run. They are [3.25] to win to nil.

Belgium are unbeaten in their last 23 matches (W18 D5), the longest current run of any team left in the 2018 World Cup. The Belgians are [3.8] to win in 90 minutes.

Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 19 goals in his 18 games for Belgium under Roberto Martinez, scoring 10 and assisting nine. Hazard is [3.5] to score.

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has scored with four of his five shots on target so far at the 2018 World Cup. Lukaku is [3.1] to find the net.

Brazil forward Neymar has been involved in 20 goals in his last 19 matches for Brazil, scoring 11 and assisting nine. Neymar is [2.3] to add to his tally.

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