Brazil might have the history and the tag of favorites but Belgium is a side than can exploit all of Tite’s weak spots
Brazil and Belgium both struggled and had to rely on the second half in order to secure their spots in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, after successfully eliminating Mexico and Japan, respectively. It is arguably the most attractive fixture of the tournament so far, with the best defence going up against the best attack. Here are three ways the Red Devils can eliminate the five-time champions.
1 – Exploiting the full-backs
Marcelo picked up an injury early on against Serbia and was quickly subbed-out, but he is medically clear for the next game, which means there’s a good chance Brazil boss Tite will use him from the start. If not, it would be Filipe Luis who is 32-years-old and has suffered way too many injuries throughout his career, that have reduced his pace and ability to catch fast wingers.
Whoever Tite picks, both are likely to have defensive problems if constantly exposed to one-on-one situations. But the real problem could be Fagner on the right flank, he suffered a lot of difficulties against Mexico but managed to get away with it, as the Brazilian defence remained organized. But with the attacking players that Belgium have at their disposal, this could be a much more difficult challenge. Eden Hazard, for example, can easily get past two defenders, so imagine if he was up against Fagner alone in a counter-attack.
2 – Relying on counter-attacks
Brazil has shown that it is much more comfortable facing teams that play an open game and leave spaces for its amazing offensive talent to exploit. Philippe Coutinho, Neymar, Willian and Gabriel Jesus are very talented in one-on-one situations and can rely on their individual quality to make a difference.
Whereas Paulinho is excellent at attacking space, just like he did against Serbia when he was on the receiving end of Coutinho’s diagonal ball. On the other hand, the team struggles to create obvious goal-scoring chances when up against sides that sit extremely deep and close spaces as much as possible.
If Belgium does that, they would first of all upset the Brazilians and make them wonder what is going wrong and whether they have what it takes to break the deadlock, and secondly, it would leave Brazil exposed to their counter-attacks. The difference is that Belgium has better individuals than Mexico, so normally, has a higher likelihood of taking advantage of these situations.
3 – The genius of De Bruyne and Eden Hazard
Kevin de Bruyne was the best midfielder in the English Premier League last season and was fundament in helping Manchester City claim the title. He is the mastermind who is capable of breaking a defensive line with one intelligent play. His decision making is close to impeccable, he will not waste an opportunity to damage the Brazilian defence.
Meanwhile, Eden Hazard is absolutely one of the best dribblers in the world, if he gets the chance to take two or three Brazilians out of his way, he would help create space for the rest of his talented teammates to exploit. Belgium is a team full of star players who can make the difference in a game and impact the score-line, even if they are not having a good match.