Croatia Vs. Brazil World Cup Quarterfinal Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/9/22)

Who said 2018 was a fluke? Croatia are back to winning penalty shootouts, and back in the World Cup quarterfinals, where they’ll face tournament favorites Brazil. In their quest for an unprecedented sixth World title, Brazil have been one of the more impressive teams of the tournament. They wrapped up a tough group with a game to spare by opening the tournament with two shutout wins, and then absolutely walloped South Korea in their first knockout match; the subs were already pouring in after a 4-0 first half. Let’s take a look at the odds for this knockout matchup

Croatia Vs. Brazil Odds

You don’t see this one every day- in a World Cup quarterfinal featuring the runners-up from the previous edition, the OTHER side, Brazil in this case, is favored by a mark of -275, compared to +400 for the draw and a whopping +800 for Croatia. The goalscoring line of 2.5 is a closer call, with the over being favored at -125 and the under set as dead-even money.

Croatia Vs. Brazil Prediction & Pick

Many doubted Croatia’s ability to extend the form they found four years ago during their gutsy run to the final in Russia’s 2018 World Cup. I was surely part of that group- with just a small bit of digging, you can find articles in which I expressed doubts that they could even make it out of their challenging group. But my theories have been disproven, as they did just that, and then went a step further by equalizing against Japan before eventually sticking out the full 120 minutes and winning in a penalty shootout. As always, this team is driven by its midfield, but the efforts of a new-look defense and a rotating cast up top should not be overlooked. This is a well-rounded, very serious side, and as was their trademark during their unforgettable run, they play as a team every second of the game.

While Croatia were finalists last time out, Brazil haven’t reached that stage of the World Cup since 2002, a fact of which they are acutely aware. The Canarinho are positively itching to get back onto the biggest stage, and reach the pinnacle of World football once more. This burden weighs on nobody more than Neymar, who not only has basically done nothing of substance while wearing the legendary #10 shirt which he inherited from Ronaldinho, but was absent for the team’s semi-recent Copa America triumph. He’s a nearly unparalleled talent, but his legacy is a complicated one, given his lack of international success for such a major footballing power of a nation, and his lack of time spent, well, on the pitch playing football. This whole team is pushing hard to get to the top, but Neymar in particular has a lot on the line in Qatar.

Unfortunately, I believe the books have this one right; it’s Brazil, and it’s not particularly close. I’d love for Croatia to prove me wrong once more and make this a competitive match, but I simply do not see it happening; with Neymar back from his short injury absence, Brazil are clicking at the right time, and at all levels of the pitch. It’s not going to be like the South Korea match, but they’ll win in regulation without being pushed too hard. For goalscoring, I think the over is pretty great value. I would not be stunned to see Brazil get there on their own, and Croatia’s attack has had some lively moments as well; if they get on the scoresheet at all, the over is well on its way to hitting.

Key Matchups

The Midfield Battle

While national legend Ivan Rakitic is out of the picture for Croatia these days, much of the midfield that was the absolute heart and soul of their historic 2018 side is still intact. Most notably, Ballon D’Or winner Luka Modric is still doing his thing, serving as one of the best midfielders in World Football, just as he does during the club season with Real Madrid. Paired with Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic and Chelsea man Mateo Kovacic, that’s a superstar midfield that just about any side in the World would absolutely love to have. That being said, while they’ve had over 50% possession in nearly all matches so far, they’ve struggled to hold the ball and control the game the way a veteran, star midfield like this one should be able to. This was particularly true in the match against Belgium, where the score ended 0-0, but not for lack of Belgian chances, the Red Devils simply had no ability to be clinical in front of goal. It will all but certainly be this same midfield three on the pitch against Brazil, and if they’re at their best, it’s one area of the game where Croatia could very well have a distinct advantage.

But that’s not to say Brazil don’t have a talented midfield- they have great players there, as they do at really every position. Depending on what “midfield” means to you, Neymar could be part of this group as the CAM, but I really think of him as an attacker, especially in the context of deciding who controls the match; he’s not dropping back and gaining possession for his team. That duty falls primarily to the duo of Prem players, Lucas Paquetá and Casemiro. The former is surely entering the prime of what will be an excellent career, the latter has as much big-match experience as just about anyone on Earth, and they play brilliantly entertaining football together. With Neymar out, they were also joined by Fred, who always seems to perform for his country; with the PSG star back, he will likely be an important force off of the bench. This group has also had issues controlling the game at times- much like Croatia, it hasn’t been a problem yet, but of course this will be by far the best midfield they’ve faced so far. It’s a big test for perhaps the favorites to win this whole thing, and if their midfield can ace their portion of it, they’ll be looking like a squad of champions with just two games to go.

Croatia Attack vs. Brazil Defense

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Brazil are going to be scoring to some degree, so it’ll be crucial for Croatia to do the same and match them. That’s happened at times, namely in their four-goal breakout against Canada, but they were shut out in their other two group matches, and found the net just once in 120 minutes against Japan. That most recent, crucial goal was scored by the versatile veteran Ivan Perisic, who has played left wing in this tournament, and also contributed a pair of lovely assists in the Canada rout. In that explosive performance, Hoffenheim winger Andrej Kramaric played opposite of Perisic, as he has for much of this tournament, and knocked in a brace in a signature performance for his nation. With the legendary Mario Mandzukic out of the team (as a player that is, he’s on the coaching staff now), striker has been a bit of a mixed bag; Ante Budmir of Osasuna, and Croatian league players Marko Lavaja and Bruno Pektovic have all rotated through with rather middling results. 2018 starter Ante Rebic would probably help right about now, but why he didn’t even make the roster is a mystery for which we may never have the answer. Using the roster they do have, figuring out a man up top could go a long way towards getting Croatia through this daunting matchup.

From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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