Brazil vs. Belgium, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
- Brazil +113
- Belgium +257
- Draw +244
Bet to Watch:
Belgium to advance +152
After a smooth sail through the group stages, Belgium were almost upended by Japan in the Round of 16. The Red Devils generated plenty of great scoring chances but found themselves trailing, 2-0, after 52 minutes. Belgium were the dominant team, but a couple of hiccups turned into wonderful goals by Japan.
Belgium kept pressing and finally got their first goal on a crazy header from Jan Vertonghen followed by a more traditional one from Marouane Fellaini. The Belgians finished the game in emphatic fashion, as they pulled off a crisp counterattack that culminated with an incredible dummy from Romelu Lukaku. Even if the scoreline may suggest Belgium were lucky to get the win, they were a force to be reckoned with and created 3.0 expected goals compared to just 0.8 by Japan.
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Even though Brazil defeated Mexico, 2-0, in their Round of 16 match, El Tri laid a blueprint for how to best undo The Yellow Canary’s all of a sudden solid defense. For chunks of the game, Mexico had a lot of success down the right side of the field. Carlos Vela was menacing and Fagner was not keeping up. Even though Mexico was competitive for a while, Brazil’s quality won out and they deserved to go through.
Casual fans may think this is a matchup between two unstoppable forces, but this matchup has more Newtonian nuance to it than meets the eye. Brazil’s defense has allowed only six goals in 25 games under Tite. They have conceded only once in this tournament, and that goal came on a corner kick by Switzerland in their opener.
Belgium have been less than stellar in keeping the ball out of the onion bag. Through four games, they have conceded five goals — including two against Tunisia and two against Japan. However, their offense has been the most prolific in the tournament, and they have showed the ability to score in basically every way imaginable.
One key suspension to note is that Casemiro, who serves as an anchor in Brazil’s midfield, will miss this match. That should help Kevin De Bruyne in his task of picking apart the Selecao with his passing. De Bruyne hasn’t really gotten going yet, but he should be helped by the tempo at which this match is likely to be played.
Brazil’s offense is obviously no walk in the park to stop. Neymar, Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus make life miserable for defenders, and if Marcelo is healthy, he expands their attack immensely. It will be a daunting task, but it’s not out of the question for a back three of Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld along with the help of either Fellaini to hold the South Americans in check to an extent. The key for Belgium will not be to completely shut down Neymar and Co., but rather keep them contained. One or two goals will not kill their chances, as they are likely to score a goal or two themselves.
In the end, Brazil is the more likely team to advance, but I believe this one is a lot closer than the odds suggest. At +152, the market is suggesting that the Red Devils have a ~39.7% chance of advancing. I think that’s underrating their chances and like a bet on them to make it through to the semifinals.