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FIFA World Cup 2018: Casemiro’s absence could be crucial for Brazil against Belgium

Belgium woke up only after Japan scored two and Kevin de Bruyne was quiet in the round of 16 till that last dash, but Brazil will hope Casemiro won’t be missed in the way Thiago Silva was in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

football Updated: Jul 06, 2018 13:00 IST
FIFA World Cup 2018,Casemiro,Brazil football team
Brazil's midfielder Casemiro (2L) will miss the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarter-final against Belgium due to card issues.(AFP)

Even with Edinson Cavani, Uruguay are going to find it very difficult against France. If they play without the man whose finishing has been phenomenal and who has a telepathic understanding with Luis Suarez, Uruguay would need to summon all of their considerable defensive qualities. In Diego Godin they have someone who can boss from the back and Uruguay will need the champion defender from Atletico Madrid to have his best evening in Russia so far.

READ | Brazil seek to temper FIFA World Cup 2018 hopes of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’

Godin and Jose Giminez form an all-Atletico Madrid central defence for Uruguay which will have its sternest test yet. That is because France have more flair players than Uruguay have come up against so far. France also have N’Golo Kante in the midfield and a backline that has a combination of Real Madrid and Barcelona at its heart and so won’t be easy to unlock, the three goals against Argentina notwithstanding.

So, like Russia did to Spain, Uruguay could try and frustrate France and rely on counter-attacks. Or like Colombia, they could play negative football. The longer they keep France from scoring, the greater will be Uruguay’s impact on the first quarter-final. And for all their midfield solidity, I hope France don’t do what England tried against Colombia: show no imagination in front after going 1-0 up.

READ | FIFA World Cup 2018: France’s youthful flair meets Uruguay’s gritty resolve

More than Blaise Matuidi being missed by France, I think Casemiro’s absence in the Brazil midfield will influence the quarter-final against Belgium. I see that as a big problem for Tite to solve because though he has Fernandinho, Casemiro’s ability to win balls in the middle and also move forward is something that made Brazil look this solid so far. Granted, Belgium woke up only after Japan scored two and granted that Kevin de Bruyne was quiet in the round of 16 till that last dash, Brazil will hope Casemiro won’t be missed in the way Thiago Silva was in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

Conversely, Japan carved open Belgium’s three-man backline and showed there can be space to exploit. I wonder if that will make Roberto Martinez line up four at the back because we have all seen what a sudden change in formation can do to a team when Croatia ripped Argentina to shreds.

READ | FIFA World Cup: Edinson Cavani trains but Uruguay coach mum on inclusion

After how England played, I think Sweden will eye a semi-final berth. Neither team has showed much imagination and England can expect a test more layered than what Colombia offered. So, maybe with both fancying their chances, we could see a game more open than expected between a team well-drilled defensively and another which hasn’t been particularly impressive. It would also be interesting to see whether Gareth Southgate re-jigs his starting line-up and opts for Marcus Rashford because he looks like the best bet to cause disarray in Swede ranks.

Having come farther than most expected, Russia will try and frustrate Croatia, who must brace for a hostile reception. If Croatia get rattled, the World Cup could well have a South Korea moment!

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 08:34 IST