World Cup 2022: What to Expect on Day 20

The World Cup resumes with a bang on Friday, as tournament favorites Brazil attempt to advance to the semi-finals.InformationGuideNigeria

Brazil breezed over South Korea in the round of 16 to get to the quarterfinals, while Croatia was pushed to extra time and penalties by a dogged Japanese side.

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Later on Friday, in the evening kickoff, the heavily favored Netherlands will face the magician Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Tuesday’s semi-final at the Lusail Stadium will feature the two winners of Friday’s quarterfinals.

World Cup Final Stage  Today
Croatia Flag




Brazil Flag

Croatia, the 2018 World Cup finalists, stand in Tite’s way after defeating Japan in the round of 16 on penalties.

Brazil, on the other hand, waltzed, and samba’d, their way past South Korea in the previous round, storming out of the blocks to establish a 2-0 lead before 13 minutes, then carrying a 4-0 lead into the half.

Tite’s team might have easily doubled their lead, but they glided through the gears in the second half to win 4-1.

Croatia will undoubtedly feel the effects of that extra-time match against Japan ahead of this one, and it was noticeable that key players like Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic did not last the entire game, implying that fatigue could well prove a major factor in Friday’s game – both sides have good grounds to complain when compared to the teams in the day’s other quarter-final.

Dominik Livakovic, the hero of the penalty shoot-out, will be bursting with confidence heading into this encounter.

And the Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper will have to be at his best on Friday, as he will be the last line of defense against a sensational attacking Brazil team.

Richarlison will likely lead the line, flanked on either side by Vinicius Jr and Raphinha, with Neymar pulling the strings in the number 10 role.

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But, in essence, it’s a ten-man attack that Croatia will have to deal with at times, with central defenders Thiago Silva and Marquinhos happy to join in the fun in their opponents’ half.

In the previous round, Dani Alves and the entire defense took part in the attacking action.
Vinicius Jr stated that they would not cease dancing to celebrate goals at the World Cup because it was a Brazilian cultural display of delight.

Brazil’s dancing celebrations as goals rained in drew condemnation from experts like former Manchester United and Ireland midfielder Roy Keane, who believed it was ‘disrespectful,’ sparking a viral conversation online.

“Sure, some love to complain when they see other people’s happiness and we Brazilians are a joyful people, so it will always bother,” said Vinicius.

“The goal is the most important moment in football, in a World Cup, it is even more important so it’s a moment of joy not only for us, players but for our entire country.

Vinicius Jr praised Tite’s leadership and ability as a mentor, as well as the impact both had on his development as a player.

After a stellar season at Real Madrid, the 22-year-old has emerged as a key member of Brazil’s World Cup-winning squad.

He scored the winning goal in the Champions League final against Liverpool and finished ninth in the Ballon D’Or voting last month.

“I always try to evolve, not only here, but at the club where I have more time to work,” said Vinicius.

“(Real Madrid coach Carlo) Ancelotti helps me a lot and he sometimes works together with Tite, they communicate and are very similar in the way they talk and relate to the players.

“In football, even more so at the top level, you don’t have time to complain, you have to evolve, learn.”

Croatia is planning to give Brazil the respect they deserve, yet still come into the game with a strong sense of confidence, as the Balkan nation feels they can play even better than they have so far.

“Brazil was the favourite before the tournament. They have two teams that can play at this level,” said veteran defender Dejan Lovren.

“Any of their substitutes can come on and make an instant impact. We respect everybody and that is how we work.”

Coach Zlatko Dalic described Brazil as “terrifying,” but midfielder Kovacic added that fitness is not a concern heading into the game.JAMB Portal

Dalic admitted that he would have preferred to face a team of Brazil’s caliber later in the tournament and compared the magnitude of the game to the World Cup final against France four years ago.

“I believe the match ahead of us will be the most demanding one, I can compare it to the final against France in the previous World Cup,” he said.

“They are a great opponent and a great challenge for us. I wish such a difficult match was waiting for us a bit later. But life is such.

“We are ambitious and we will not rest here and we try and win tomorrow.”

“We showed that we are in great physical shape,” Kovacic said. “We worked a lot during these World Cup games. The Japanese team was very disciplined and it was difficult to break them down.”

“But we showed a lot of physical fitness and I believe we can play even better.”

“How we can stop them?,” Lovren said. “It is simple. Our goal is to try and stop the whole team. It will be a very difficult fight.”

As for Brazil’s exuberant celebrations when they score, which some have said are disrespectful to their opponents, Lovren said he had no problem with them.NYSC Portal

“Honestly, everybody can celebrate however they want. I have no issues with that,” he said. “I don’t think it is disrespectful.”

“There are boundaries for everything, but Brazilians were born singing and dancing and I have no problem with that.”

The Netherlands faces Argentina in a rematch of the 1978 World Cup final for a spot in the last four in Qatar.

With all of the talk about exhaustion and games being too close together, neither side here can complain about fitness issues, given that they both qualified for the quarter-finals last Saturday and have had six days to prepare for this match.

Argentina advanced with a hard-fought victory over a well-organized Australia, courtesy of goals from Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez, while the Dutch proved too powerful for the USA, with two first-half goals putting them in charge moving into the second half.

Argentina’s defeat to Saudi Arabia appears to be a distant memory, while the Netherlands appeared to be a much-improved outfit compared to some of their slow performances in the group stages.

Naturally, the attention is on Messi for this one, as the brilliant Argentina attacker aims to complete his medal collection with the one that’s missing from his remarkable haul.

Despite an abysmal start to the season, the South Americans are ultimately looking like contenders, with the entire team contributing, not to mention the outstanding work that coach Lionel Scaloni is doing to develop and sustain that togetherness and winning mindset.

Of course, it is no secret that their hopes for a third World Cup win rest heavily on Messi’s shoulders, but at 44, Lionel Scaloni is the World Cup’s youngest coach, and he will compete against the oldest, 71-year-old Louis Van Gaal, for a semi-final position.

“I’m proud to take him on, everyone knows what he’s done for football and how many people have tried to copy him,” said Scaloni. “This is one of the pleasures that football gives you, especially as it is happening at a World Cup.”

Scaloni has already amassed a significant amount of goodwill at home in his four years in command, most notably by delivering the 2021 Copa America, Argentina’s first major trophy since the 1986 World Cup and Messi’s first for his country.

Scaloni was born in the little inland village of Pujato just over a month before Argentina defeated the Dutch in 1978 to win their first World Cup.

Scaloni, a hard-running wing-back, had a great playing career, largely for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, and made Argentina’s World Cup roster in 2006, playing briefly with a young Messi against Mexico.

Scaloni helped Deportivo beat Van Gaal’s Barcelona to the La Liga title in 1999-2000.

The man behind the man – the two Lionels, Scaloni and Messi
He began his coaching career as an assistant to Jorge Sampaoli at Sevilla in 2017, and his compatriot promoted him to Argentina head coach before the 2018 World Cup.

When Argentina lost to eventual victors France in the round of 16 in Russia, Scaloni took over as interim coach alongside Pablo Aimar, but he was named the permanent successor to Sampaoli.

Argentina finished third in the 2019 Copa America after losing in the semi-finals against hosts Brazil.

Scaloni reinforced the defense, and his revitalized side, always with Messi at its throbbing core, finally delivered the South American crown on the back of a 20-match unbeaten streak.

They followed that with a 3-0 triumph over Euro winners Italy in the “Finalissima” at Wembley in June, and the streak had been extended to 36 games by the time they arrived in Qatar.

The team has long been termed La Scaloneta, a play on the coach’s name and the local word for a van inspired by a meme depicting the two Lionels in the front of a team bus with the rest of the players in the back.

Scaloni has never been happy with the label and has always been eager to emphasize the severity of Argentina’s mission, especially with Messi on the side.

“All the games are hard,” he said after Mexico won. “If you think that just because we won today, we are going to become World Cup winners, you’re wrong.”

“We prepare for this match the same way we prepared for all the others,” said Scaloni, speaking at the pre-match press conference. “Of course there is anxiety, we want the game to start right now. After five or six days we are eager to play but we are calm. I know the team will break their backs as they have done in the previous games.

“Sometimes we have played well, sometimes not, but we have always faced our opponents. That’s what our people value the most. We know we will give it all on the pitch.

“Sometimes football can be beautiful. Sometimes football can be cruel.”

The Dutch, meanwhile, are eager to break new ground and win a World Cup after losing in three finals.

“There is a hunger, dreams, and a feeling that we really want to get it (the World Cup),” said captain Virgil Van Dijk.

“When you are in the quarter-finals you are only three games from glory. This is our opportunity. But obviously, we have to get past an Argentina side with one of the best players of all time.”

The Dutch also face the potential that the majority of the 80,000-strong crowd will be rooting on Argentina since a relatively limited number of orange-clad Dutch supporters have traveled.

Normally, the Dutch receive substantial support on the road, but Van Dijk believes an early goal may be necessary to quiet the opposing crowd.JAMB Result

“Then it comes a whole different game,” he said. “But I think it will be nice to play in such an ambiance.”‘

Looking ahead to the quarter-final, Van Gaal tried to dampen the romanticism by pointing to the more defensive aspect of the modern game, but it might mean a moment of magic is required to separate the sides.

“(Bergkamp’s goal – the stunning quarter-final winner at the 1998 World Cup) was an amazing moment for the country, and what a goal,” said Memphis Depay, speaking at the pre-match press conference. “This game will be decided by moments. We believe we can catch a moment and go through.”

The 71-year-old Van Gaal nodded as he listened to the Barcelona winger.

“Football is no longer being played as it was in 1998 or 1974 or whatever,” said the coach. “Then it was an open game which it no longer is. Football has evolved but it is always possible, as Memphis has said, to have decisive moments that you remember years later, like Bergkamp’s goal.”

Van Gaal will step down after this World Cup with Ronald Koeman due to start work in the new year, and though he plans to stop he said he could not rule out accepting another role if the right opportunity emerged.

“I’m only doing this for the country, it was an emergency and I committed to that,” he said. “But you never say never. We had a wonderful example in Dick Advocaat. He is older than me and recently took a job (at ADO Den Haag).

“If I am presented with a wonderful challenge it could well be I continue to work but I’m 71, even though I look marvelous.”

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Emediong Ekpe

Emediong Ekpe is a graduate of English. A professional Sports journalist/analyst, and a spoken word artist. He is passionate about decimating information and putting smiles on people's faces via news writing.

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