BRAZIL v CROATIA BETTING PREVIEW
Brazil are on a 9 match unbeaten runBrazil qualified comfortably for the World Cup after topping the CONMEBOL group with 41 points, having lost just one game. The Seleçao were sixth with a third of the qualifying campaign gone when journeyman coach Tite replaced former Brazil midfielder Dunga and guided his country 10 points clear of second-placed Uruguay. The Verde-Amarela have only lost one of their last 29 friendlies and have kept five clean sheets in their last six matches. The most recent two, both played last March, saw the Seleçao beating Russia (3-0) and Germany (1-0). Tite's men will face Austria next weekend before flying out to Russia before the start of the tournament.
The fitness of Neymar remains a concern for Brazil, with the Paris Saint-Germain forward having been missing for the last three months. Roberto Firmino is likely to be rested after his Champions League exertions, leaving Gabriel Jesus as the starting centre-forward. Roma's goalkeeper Alisson will start between the posts, while the likes of Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda and Marcelo should be the preferred defenders with Casemiro and Fernandinho playing as defensive pivots in midfield. William, Paulinho and Coutinho are likely to support Gabriel Jesus up front.
Croatia’s midfield has enough potential to outplay BrazilCroatia secured a ticket to the World Cup through European Play-offs, beating Greece 4-1 on aggregate in a dominating style. Prior to that, they won 2-0 in Ukraine in Zlatko Dalic's first game in charge. They were extremely solid in qualifying though, conceding just four goals in ten matches. The Blazers have only scored once in their last three matches too, so the goals are not flowing for Croatia right now. In the most recent warm-up games, they suffered a 2-0 defeat against Peru and won 1-0 against Mexico back in March.
Champions League final participants Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren and Mateo Kovacic are expected to be involved as Croatia will have to be at their very best to advance to the knockout stages considering they are in a tough group that includes Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria. Mario Mandzukic is favourite over Nikola Kalinic for the lone striker berth, while Ivan Perisic and Marko Pjaca are in contention for one of the three spots as offensive midfielder. The like of Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka and Josip Pivaric should form the four man backline.
BRAZIL v CROATIA STARTING LINEUPS Brazil (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Fernandinho, Casemiro; Willian, Paulinho, Coutinho; Gabriel Jesus.
Croatia (4-2-3-1): Kalinic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Corluka, Pivaric; Rakitic, Modric; Pjaca, Brozovic, Kovacic; Mandzukic.
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