It’s time for things to get really serious at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 32 nations started the tournament, but now only eight remain. The first four of those eight will compete for a place in the semi-finals on Friday.
After finally winning their war of attrition against the Japanese, the Croats will face Brazil, who many people feel will win the tournament, while in the evening, the Netherlands, fresh from their commanding victory over the USA, will take on the Argentines, who despite Lionel Messi’s brilliance, wobbled a little when beating Australia last time out.
Croatia vs Brazil
- Brazil 1.38
- Croatia 9.00
- Draw 5.00
- Bookmaker: BetOnline
The first of Friday’s two fixtures sees Croatia take on the brilliant Brazilians at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.
It was hard-fought, and they never gave up, which is absolutely a quality that is required to thrive at the World Cup, but the Croats didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory on their way to beating Japan on penalties in the Round of 16. In fact, over the course of the game, they were probably second-best.
In contrast, the Brazilians couldn’t have looked more like a team with their eyes on the big prize during the first half against South Korea last time out. They came firing out of the blocks and really went after their opponents, showing an abundance in terms of desire, skill and final-third quality. It was a job done as they went 4-0 up inside the opening 40 minutes.
The Croats are not easy to beat. We know that they like to sit in and frustrate teams, and they have some clever players who know all about taking the sting out of a game. However, we cannot underestimate the fact that they had a really tough battle last time out, one that went all the way to a penalty shootout. The same cannot be said for Brazil, who could effectively relax after little more than 35 minutes of their Round-of-16 tie.
In the betting, it is very difficult to side with anything other than a Brazil win, though the best option is to combine the Samba Boys winning with ‘Under 3.5 Goals’.
Croatia, for all their hard work and disciplined play, have created little at this tournament, which is worrying given how dominant this Brazil team can be. Against Japan, they struggled to get out at times, while their goal came from an incredibly accurate header, the kind of goal that goes in one in 100. At the same time, this Brazil team has the quality to keep teams out, mainly because they can dominate so much. They avoided conceding against both Serbia and Switzerland in the groups, only conceding to Cameroon with a much-changed team, while the goal that South Korea scored came from an unlikely long-range strike.
It’s easy to see how things will pan out. Croatia will get men behind the ball, they’ll stay deep, and they won’t look to break from their defensive shackles if they don’t have to. Brazil, with the likes of Neymar, Lucas Paqueta, Vinicius Junior and the hugely in-form Richarlison, have the quality to break them down, but we shouldn’t assume it will be as easy or as high-scoring as last time.
- Score Prediction Croatia 0-2 Brazil
- Brazil to Win & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.25
Netherlands vs Argentina
- Argentina 2.20
- Netherlands 3.60
- Draw 3.25
- Bookmaker: Bodog
At the Lusail Iconic Stadium in the Qatari city of Lusail, there will be a heavyweight showdown between the Netherlands and Argentina, both of whom have reached the final in the last three tournaments.
What a game this promises to be. The pair are no strangers to clashing on the biggest stage of all. They met in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup, when Argentina sneaked through on penalties, while they also drew 0-0 in the group stages of the 2006 renewal of FIFA’s showpiece event. In 1998, the Netherlands beat Argentina 2-1 at this stage of the competition, while they famously shared the stage in the final of the 1978 World Cup, when Argentina won 3-1 after extra time.
The Netherlands continued to go about their business and get the job done last time out. They were fast into action, played some attractive football and delivered no shortage of end-product against a decent US team. They’ve now scored seven goals and conceded just two in Qatar, and crucially, they’re not overly reliant on any one player, which is perhaps not something that can be said for the Argentines.
Lionel Messi was quite brilliant against Australia, so much so that his team realistically had him to thank for their victory. That may seem slightly harsh, but without the magic man, that game could’ve easily found its way to extra time, as a resolute Aussie back-line was proving hard to breach.
Besides Messi, this Argentina team does have plenty to offer, and on paper, they have a great blend of youth and experience, but so far, the performances have been quite tame, which doesn’t bode well ahead of a game against a Dutch side that has quietly played some excellent soccer in Qatar.
At the prices, the Dutch are worth siding with here. They’re not favourites, but that suits them. With much of the talk being about the likes of Brazil, Argentina, France and England at this tournament, Louis van Gaal’s men have gone under the radar, but they are not a team to dismiss. They have pace and power all over the pitch, while they can be very deadly on the break. Their fast and dynamic forward line could really enjoy breaking against an Argentina rearguard that has looked far from solid on several occasions at this tournament, that’s for sure.
We could see another Messi masterclass, it’s far from out of the question, but if we don’t, do the Argentinians have a backup plan? Overall, the Dutch look to have a team strong enough to cope. They certainly appear to have more to offer than the early betting odds suggest, so a play on the Netherlands win that would surprise a few offers some value.
- Score Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Argentina
- Netherlands to Win @ 3.60