Brazil and Belgium will battle it out for a semi-final spot in Kazan on Friday evening. Dan McCulloch (@danmcc84) shares his best bets.
Brazil v Belgium | Friday 6th July 2018, 19:00 | BBC
As a West Brom fan myself, I had mixed feelings seeing the tireless Nacer Chadli score a 94th minute winner for Belgium against Japan on Monday night. On the one hand, Japan’s antics in their 1-0 loss to Poland were hardly endearing but on the other, I backed Harry Kane to be top goalscorer in this tournament and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku is a very real threat to that!
Still, it did set up a mouthwatering tie with Brazil this Friday and what is – on paper – the tie of the round.
Goals at a minimum
My natural inclination is to oppose goals however, with 9/10 on under 2.5 goals with Marathon Bet seeming more than fair. I am aware that across the last five tournaments, there have been just 36 goals in the 90 minutes of all the quarter final matches, with only eight of them seeing over 2.5 goals bets land.
Indeed, while this tournament has been a great deal more exciting than the previous two, it is worth noting that we still saw two goals or fewer in five of the eight last 16 matches. All of Brazil’s games in this tournament have seen the under 2.5 goals and had VAR been used to consider Switzerland’s goal against them, they may well have reached this stage without conceding a goal.
Saying that, of the four matches taking place this weekend, this is the one that feels most goal-heavy. I appreciate that to date Belgium have only faced Panama, Tunisia, Japan and a second-string England but 12 goals is an impressive return and a total that their attacking performances have merited. I also don’t believe they have looked particularly strong at the back and given that they have conceded twice against Tunisia and Japan, I struggle to see their backline keeping a clean sheet against a side featuring Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus.
I can’t get away from the trend to low-scoring matches at this stage, however and think a 1-0 Brazil victory is huge at 15/2 with Bet365. It was the score by which Belgium lost in the Quarter Finals of the last World Cup and since 1998 five of the 20 matches have seen the victor emerge by such a scoreline. Brazil are the side most likely to do so, so I believe this represents excellent value.
I also like the look of the second half featuring most goals at 11/10 with Betway. Across their eight combined matches so far, five would have seen such a bet pay out. I expect a fairly cagey first half, but cannot see two sides with such attacking talent failing to find the net in 90 minutes.
I would obviously prefer it was Brazil who scored the decisive goal though as Nacer needs to be fully recovered for our Championship game against Bolton on August 4th!