Sun | Dec 10, 2023

FLOW Qatar Spotlight | Croatia, the dangerous scrappers, Samba time, and a European blockade

Published:Monday | December 5, 2022 | 6:01 PMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter, Livingston Scott/Gleaner Writer, Orane Buchanan/Staff Reporter, Paul-Andre Walker/Sports Editor
Croatia's Ivan Perisic celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup round of 16 football match against Japan at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar on Monday.
Brazil supporters in the stands cheer above a banner with pictures of soccer legend Pele, while waiting for the start of the World Cup round of 16 football match against South Korea at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar on Monday.
From right: Brazil's Neymar celebrates with teammates Lucas Paqueta, Raphinha and Vinicius Junior after scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 football match against South Korea at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar on Monday.
Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands in action during the World Cup round of 16 football match against the United States at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.
An Argentine fan waves a national flag as he watches the World Cup match between Argentina and Australia with hundreds of fans on a giant screen at a park in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday.

Scrappy Croatia could be ominous

Daniel Wheeler

Croatia are quietly going about their business to give captain and stalwart Luka Modric one last hurrah at the World Cup. They were made to work for it against Japan and Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic turned hero in a penalty shootout with three saves. The finalists from four years ago are gunning for another shot at the title.

Standing in their way is a Brazil team that put South Korea to the sword early and often. It was over at halftime and when you have Brazil playing like this, they are pretty hard to stop. The top two goals of this tournament belong to Richarlison and with him firing and Neymar recovered, title number six may be just three games away.

Brazil back as favourites?

Livingston Scott

If you are a Brazilian football fan, you would have enjoyed every moment of the five-time world champions’ round-of-16 performance against South Korea.

The boys from Brazil, bouyed by the return of Neymar Jr, were at their tantalising best, tearing the Korean defence apart to take a 4-0 lead at half-time. The win should re-establish the Brazilians as favourites to win a sixth title.

Tite gets the Selecao dancing again

Orane Buchanan

Following what some might have considered a shock defeat to Cameroon, albeit to no avail since Brazil had already booked their spot in the knock-out phase and where group winners, the anti-Brazil chants and supporters were out in full force. But when it really matters, cream always rises to the top. The ‘Selecao’ showed why they’re a force to reckon with on the heels of their 4-1 victory over South Korea.

The last time they reach the pinnacle was back in 2002, 20 years ago, and having set up a clash between themselves and 2018 beaten finalists Croatia, many will have Neymar and Co. entering that clash as favorites.

The Samba dances have returned, the true Brazilian flair is an ever-constant ingredient throughout their matches and zero pressure is on Neymar to be the focal point, all of those could add up to one thing, but you be the judge as to what that adds up to.

European blockade

Paul-Andre Walker

The brackets at the Qatar World Cup put Argentina and Brazil on the same side, meaning only one or the other can make the final. The always highly anticipated clash is still on with the brackets pointing to a semi-final clash after both earned quarterfinal berths in very different fashion.

Argentina looked shaky against a game Australia but Brazil look anything but. In those quarters, Argentina have to deal with a very efficient-looking Netherlands, while Brazil have to go up against an experienced Croatia, who fought their way pasta game Japan.

South American football has not done very well against Europe at this stage of the competition in recent times and as good as Brazil looked today, is a European blockade about to spoil one of the greatest rivalries in world football, taking place on its greatest stage?