Football

Brazil come unstuck as stubborn Croatia win tactical battle in World Cup quarter-final


Brazil were one of the favourites to win the World Cup but they won’t even feature in the semi-final after being dumped out by Croatia on penalties.

The Selecao thought they had it won when Neymar’s glorious solo goal put them ahead late in extra time, but Bruno Petkovic scored with Croatia’s first shot on target with just a few minutes to go and sent the game to penalties.

From the spot, Rodrygo’s effort was saved by the excellent Dominik Livakovic, before Marquinhos struck the post and sealed Croatia’s place in the semi-final.

Those two paragraphs make it seem as though Brazil were the dominant side, but in reality, Tite can have few complaints about this result.

Brazil were a little fortunate to even be in the game at half time. Zlatko Dalic won the tactical battle inside the first 45 minutes, with the streets-shall-never-forget midfield of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic absolutely running the show.

Tite’s decision to deploy what was more of a 4-1-4-1, with Casemiro alone on an island, was misguided as the Croatian trio had their way with Manchester United’s anchor man. Had they offered literally anything in attack, they surely would have taken the lead.

The three midfielders also swarmed Neymar and Lucas Paqueta whenever they tried to link up the Brazilian lines. The Selecao had nothing in the first half.

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Tite declined to adjust his system and instead changed the personnel. Antony’s introduction for Raphinha ten minutes into the second half was the catalyst for Brazil’s improvement as the €100m-Mancheter United man lived up to his price tag and dragged his side on top.

But the lack of tactical shift saw Brazil continue to knock on the same door and it took a moment of absolute genius from Neymar to break them down.

Individual brilliance couldn’t cut it, however, as Croatia responded through Petkovic and went on to win on penalties – a fair reward for the sheer effort they put in to get to this point.

Brazil just didn’t do enough. They were second-best in midfield and had one strategy in attack. You need more than that at these big stages, and the Selecao have paid the price.



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