For a lot of football fans, Brazil might just be their second favorite team at this World Cup. The #1 ranked team in the world, the Samba Kings might also be the least favorite side of other football fans consuming this tournament in Qatar.
Why are they so polarizing? Because they’re just that good, they know they are, and they’re extremely flamboyant about it. The Brazilian national team doesn’t just dance to celebrate their goals, they came to the tourney with a whole catalogue of scripted dances to break out and showcase to the world after every score.
Brazil are +175 favorites according to Betting Insider Journal, as the quarterfinals commence on Friday. They entered the tournament as favorites, and they remain the team to beat right now, even despite the injury to their top gun Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar, also the world’s all-time most expensive player, is back after having missed the last two of the three group stage clashes due to injury.
But there is so much more to this side than Neymar. You have Vinicius Jr to account for. There is their leading scorer at the tourney so far, Richarlison.
Not to mention Manchester United man Antony. And that’s just the attack.
While Brazil lost a key piece in their final third, with Gabriel Jesus suffering a medial ligament tear in his knee, they don’t just have subs, they have reinforcements.
Who can stop them? Well, up next is the side that finished runner’s up in the last World Cup, Croatia. This matchup, which is strength versus strength, restarts the tournament after two days off.
Croatia is very strong in the back, and in the defensive midfield, and it all starts with defender Joško Gvardiol, who is known as “Little Pep” because his last name is so similar to Pep Guardiola.
The football world is watching the fine form of this masked man who has been tearing it up in Qatar this month. The RB Leipzig defender spoke of being linked to both Real Madrid and Chelsea. In the process, he mentioned some of Croatia’s star players, who will be key to trying to contain the Brazilian attack.
“Chelsea is a big club, maybe one day I will be there,” Gvardiol said.
“My agent is taking care of my future, I’m happy in Leipzig now. It’s nice to see the links, especially because there is Kovacic. So… you never know!”
You’ll notice he mentioned Chelsea midfielder and national teammate Mateo Kovacic. Sounds like Kovacic is recruiting him. Ditto for Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
“Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to play there. I’d like it…Modric doesn’t have to tell me anything, not needed – I know how special is to be linked with Real Madrid.”
The 20-year-old, as well as Dejan Lovren, will be key to trying to keep Richarlison, Neymar, Vinicius and company off the score sheet. If they fail, well at least we can enjoy the broadcast coverage showcasing all the dancing, with some hot samba music playing in the background.
Or at least, that’s what the network broadcasting the World Cup here in America has been doing- every time they mention Brazil.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”