Belgium needed a late comeback against Japan to book this this clash with Brazil, as the Red Devils showed a Plan B which few of the remaining teams have and they should feel confident moving forward. Brazil are yet to be tested and bar a decent second half against Mexico haven’t shown that much to scare Roberto Martinez’s side. With European teams dominating South American opposition in the World Cup knockouts in recent years – W8-D4-L2 since 2006 – the Seleção look far too short at close to odds-on. Even if we narrow that to just look at South American sides we had ranked in the top five – we rank Brazil 1st – their record is still just W1-D4-L4. That suggests a draw might be the best bet and since 1990 we have 24 knockout ties at World Cups, Euros or Copa Americas between two top-five ranked teams (Belgium are 3rd in our rankings) and 11 (46%) finished all-square.
We expect it to be a cagey affair though with all four of Brazil’s games seeing fewer than three goals because of their defensive solidity. Furthermore, 62% of World Cup knockout matches since 1990 between European and South American sides have seen fewer than three goals.
Brazil will look to Neymar and Coutinho to guide them, and it’s been the former Liverpool player that’s really stood out so far. He scored their goal in the draw with Switzerland, whilst he broke the deadlock late on against Costa Rica, and so we’re backing him to be the first goalscorer for the third time at this tournament. That would continue a hot streak that has seen him score 10 times in his last 11 appearances for club and country.