With the final game less than two weeks away, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is getting closer to crowing its new champion. Now, only the best of the best remains in the race for bringing the trophy home. This means it is time for some Brazil versus Croatia bold predictions for the quarterfinals.
The Seleção is coming off a dominating 4-1 win against South Korea in the round of 16. Perhaps most importantly, Neymar returned after missing the last two group-stage games due to an injury. The Brazilians led group G with two wins versus Serbia and Switzerland and a loss to Cameroon. The team played with an entire reserve lineup in the latter.
So far in 2022, Croatia is having a tough time. The 2018 runner-up managed only one victory in the group F against a zero-point Canada team. The Vatreni had draws versus Morocco and Belgium, failing to score in both instances. They defeated the surprising Japanese squad in a penalty shootout in the round of 16.
While both teams are having very distinct World Cup campaigns, a win-or-go-home game can always bring some surprises. With that being said, here are some bold predictions as Brazil and Croatia play on Friday for a spot in the 2022 World Cup final four.
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4. Goalkeeper Dominik Livaković is Croatia’s best player
Perhaps the biggest reason why Croatia is playing in the quarterfinals has been Dominik Livaković’s strong performances. The goalkeeper has only conceded two goals in four matches, one of the best marks in the tournament.
Against Japan, Livaković had his big World Cup moment. He saved three penalty kicks in the shootout, helping Croatia move to the next round. He ended up earning Man of the Match honors. Livaković also became just the third goalkeeper to three saves in a World Cup shootout, joining Portugal’s Ricardo in 2006 and fellow Croatian Danijel Subašić in 2018.
Since Brazil has such a prolific attack with Neymar, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison, Livaković should have a tough time on Friday. Because of that, expect the goalkeeper to make multiple key saves that should keep Croatia alive for most of the game.
3. Neymar scores a brace
When Neymar went down in the opening match versus Serbia, many fans were worried if he would even return to this World Cup. Luckily for head coach Tite, the Paris Saint-Germain star only missed the rest of the group stage.
In his return, Neymar found the net via a penalty kick against South Korea. This goal made him join a select group of players, which includes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, that has scored in each of the last three World Cups.
Not only that, the Brazilian won the Man of the Match award, showing he is back to his best form. Now that he played a game post-injury, Neymar should already be back in rhythm.
Against Croatia in the 2014 World Cup, Neymar scored twice. The bold prediction is that he will repeat his feat and score a brace on Friday. If he does so, Brazil should be in a good position to advance.
2. Game enters halftime with Brazil leading 1-0
In their 2014 matchup, Brazil and Croatia entered halftime with a 1-1 draw. The Seleção then managed to win 3-1. In 2018, in a pre-World Cup friendly, they started the second half with a score of 0-0 as Neymar came off the bench. He scored once as Brazil won 2-0.
In recent history, Brazil and Croatia tend to decide the game in the final 45 minutes. However, the Europeans are a very different team from those two previous encounters. Most notably, 2018 World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modrić is now 37 years old and far from his best days. Also, Brazil has a young generation led by Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior, mixing youth and experience in this tournament.
Still, this should be a tough game. Because of that, the bold prediction is that Brazil will only find one goal in the first half thanks to Neymar and Livaković’s big saves for Croatia.
1. Brazil wins 3-0, advances to the semifinals
At the end of the day, it is difficult to ignore how well Brazil has been playing in this World Cup. Other than the reserves versus Cameroon, Brazil was the better team in all other contests. With Neymar back, the team showed how dominating it can be. A 4-0 lead in the first half against South Korea is just an example of that.
On the other hand, Croatia is heavily relying on its goalkeeper to remain a contender. Against a team as good as Brazil, it might be too much even for Livaković.
The bold prediction is that, after a hard-fought first half, Croatia will need to be more aggressive to find an equalizer. The problem is that it will give more space to Brazil, who should be able to capitalize on Neymar’s counter attacks. After scoring the second, Brazil should make 3-0 as Croatia desperately tries to find a goal.
With that, Brazil should be heavily motivated for the semifinals, which could be a game versus South American rivals Lionel Messi and Argentina.