A resurgent Brazil under Tite have started to make their case heard in their bid to win a sixth World Cup title but will play a Belgium side that has been touted as the golden generation.
Belgium have some of the best individually talented players in their ranks. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen are capable of producing moment of brilliance that Brazil must be aware of.
De Bruyne is the central midfielder with ability to create play by dropping deep into his own half and that would likely see Eden Hazard getting good service and making runs at the Brazil defence which have been very solid at this World Cup.
Belgium meanwhile have let in four goals in as many matches. Their manager Roberto Martinez prefers a 5-4-1 or a 5-3-2 with wing-backs while employing a defensive shape.
Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco, the wide players frequently drop deep to form a five in the backline. The disciplined Axel Witsel will man the midfield zone with De Bruyne. The front-three of Hazard, Lukaku and Martens have been involved in some excellent plays so far at this World Cup.
Brazil will likely line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Neymar and Willian manning the wide zones while Fernandinho will likely play as the defensive midfielder in the absence of the suspended Casemiro.
How Brazil will fare without their regular defensive midfielder at this World Cup might turn out to be an important aspect against Belgium.
De Bruyne will come up against his Manchester City teammate Fernandinho. They both know each other’s style well and it will be the midfield where the game might be won. Since Belgium will likely have two in midfield, Brazil will employ Paulinho and Fernandiho to add steel while fullbacks Marcelo and Fagner will tuck into the wide midfield positions from their full-back roles.
Neymar-Willian vs Carrasco-Meunier
That will mean that Brazil can gain numerical superiority in midfield while Belgium will look to involve Carrasco and Meunier to stop Neymar and Willian from creating that superiority in midfield.
Carrasco in particular have been known to forget his defensive duties in the past and Willian can stretch play through Brazil’s right and take advantage.
Coutinho to roam free, up against Alderweireld and Kompany
With numerical superiority and focus on Neymar, Coutinho can be the man that could cause damage with darting runs in midfield or penetrating balls for wide runners and centre forward Gabriel Jesus.
Hazard vs Fagner
Chelsea wide midfielder Eden Hazard in going to be key component in Belgium’s bid to outdo Brazil. Fagner, who played in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Mexico will play in the right-back role once more. If Hazard can take advantage in one on one situations due to the Brazilian’s inexperience, it could help Belgium bring Martens and Lukaku into the game.
Neymar vs Belgium midfield and defence
Neymar likes to move into central positions with the ball at his feet. How will Belgium deal with it once Marcelo overlaps and gets into advanced areas will also dictate how well Brazil can play.