Brazil must overcome European knockout woes as they target glory in Russia

Brazil must overcome European knockout woes as they target glory in Russia
Alex Wrigley
Alex Wrigley
July 4, 2018
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Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.

30th June 2002 is a date of huge significance for Brazilian football fans. It was on that evening in Yokohama that Brazil won their fifth World Cup, at the time moving two clear of any other nation. Their 2-0 victory over a pretty average German side was also the last time that Brazil won a knockout match against European opposition at the World Cup.

Since then Brazil’s World Cup campaigns have all ended against elite European sides and they will face their first big European test of this tournament on Friday when they take on Belgium in Kazan looking to secure a place in the Semi-Finals. If they progress they will lay a few demons to rest but there will be fresh European challenges to come with long-term adversaries France potentially awaiting them in the last four while there is guaranteed to be a European finalist with England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia the remaining sides on the other half of the draw.

Tite’s men won’t be looking that far ahead yet and Friday’s clash with Belgium will give us the clearest indication yet as to whether this really is a much improved Brazil or whether they will again come short against the very best sides from the European continent as has been the case in each of the last three World Cups:

Read more – Brazil’s World Cup highs and lows

2006 – Henry sends the holders packing in Frankfurt

Brazil 0-1 France, Quarter-Final

In 2006 Brazil were hotly tipped to successfully defend their crown with Ronaldo still going strong up front while Ronaldinho and Kaka were at the very peak of the powers in support. They cruised through the group winning all their matches and were convincing 3-0 winners against Ghana in the last 16.

That set up a first World Cup clash with France since the 1998 Final which turned into a nightmare for the South American giants. Things didn’t go much better in Frankfurt as an experienced French side successfully stifled Brazil’s attacking talent and had the better of the game with an ageing Zinedine Zidane rolling back the years with perhaps his last truly great performance.

His free-kick led to the game’s only goal early in the Second Half as Thierry Henry connected with a brilliant volley to send Les Bleus through to the Semi-Finals and send Brazil packing. They didn’t know it then but it was the start of a sequence of knockout exits against European sides that has led to some serious rethinking in Brazilian football.

Read more – France’s best ever World Cup XI

2010 – Dutch comeback puts pay to Brazilian hopes in Africa

Brazil 1-2 Netherlands, Quarter-Final

Four years later and it was a very familiar tale in South Africa. In truth it wasn’t a vintage Brazilian squad that headed to the 2010 World Cup with the 2002 winning team now broken up. Their forwards at that tournament consisted of the relatively uninspiring quartet of Robinho, Nilmar, Grafite and Luis Fabiano while their only true midfield star was Kaka but even his career had started its downward spiral in Madrid by this point.

The signs that it wouldn’t be a particularly successful tournament were perhaps there from the very first game when Brazil stumbled to a 2-1 win over rank outsiders North Korea. A 3-0 win over Chile in the last 16 raised expectation levels but their first big European test once again proved their downfall.

Robinho gave Brazil a 10th minute lead in the Quarter-Final against the Netherlands and they protected that advantage until the break. However things went badly wrong after the interval with defensive mix-ups contributing to two Wesley Sneijder goals and Felipe Melo compounded Brazil’s misery by stamping on Arjen Robben to see red in the closing stages.

Read more – Brazil’s Key Stats from previous World Cups

2014 – Humiliated at Home

Brazil 1-7 Germany, Semi-Final

Brazil headed into the 2014 World Cup on home soil with arguably an even weaker squad than had played in South Africa but there was one shining light. The emergence of Neymar ensured they had a real talisman to build their hopes around and they’d by this stage opted to reappoint 2002 World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari in the hope of securing another success.

Having emerged from their group with no real alarms, a South American path emerged as they saw off Chile and Colombia to reach the last four despite not really setting the world on fire. An injury to Neymar and suspension to skipper Thiago Silva left them without two key men as they prepared to take on Germany in the Semi-Final.

What happened next will haunt Brazilian football fans for as long as they live as the Germans went 5-0 up inside half an hour faced with some increasingly panic-stricken Brazilian defending. A 7-1 Full-Time score was more than reflective of the gulf in class that so clearly existed and it almost appeared as though Brazil were still stuck in the dark ages up against the modern, European tactics of Germany.

Read more – Brazil’s transformation since 2014

2018 – Have Brazil adapted or will European demons return?

Brazil World Cup Betting Tips

Brazil vs Belgium, Quarter-Final

Tite is widely credited with bringing Brazilian football into the modern age with a more European approach and we’ve certainly seen evidence of that so far in Russia. Defensively they’ve been very strong and there is no comparison with the amateurish efforts at the back from four years ago.

However they will still take on Belgium in the knowledge that 16 years have now passed since they won a knockout game against European opposition at the World Cup and unquestionably the game will be their biggest test yet in Russia. Progress has been smooth up until this point but group opponents Switzerland and Serbia are some way short of the top European sides while it was another relatively comfortable outing in the last 16 against a Mexican side that never looked like they truly believed they were capable of winning.

That won’t be the case on Friday night in Kazan. Belgium have some very talented players and may just relish in their underdogs tag having struggled to deal with the burden of expectation that goes with being branded their nation’s ‘golden generation’ in recent tournaments.

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