Japan v Croatia
The big sides have been flexing their muscles in the last 16 so far, with Netherlands, Argentina, France, and England all landing convincing wins so far in matches they were expected to dominate. On paper though, this looks to be the closest matchup of the knockouts so far, with it being the only game without an odds-on favourite.
Japan shocked two of the last three World Cup winners in Spain and Germany to progress top of the group, and will be confident of repeating their heroics against a weaker Croatia side. They’ve got a respectable W4-D3-L5 record against European sides at the World Cup since they started qualifying regularly in 1998, though the two such knockout results have been narrow one goal defeats to turkey in 2002 and Belgium in 2018. In fact, they’ve never lost a World Cup game to a UEFA nation by more than a single strike, and they’re likely to keep this one competitive too.
While Croatia put on a show in a 4-1 win over Canada, they struggled against both Morocco and Belgium, recording 0-0 results in both outings. They can consider themselves fortunate to pick up a point against the Red Devils, with Romelu Lukaku wasting a host of great chances, and they’ll need to be better here. They’re a decent W9-D5-L2 against AFC sides going back to 1990, though they’re unbeaten in 10 such games, winning each of their last six. The most recent four have come by one goal margins though, and while they’re likely to take the spoils here, we’d expect a low scoring affair that’s separated by fine margins.
While not prevalent so far in the knockout stages (largely owing to the gulf in class between sides) the half time draw was a staple of the groups with 54% of games seeing the sides go in level at the break (50% 0-0). Two of Croatia’s three were level at half time, as was Japan’s match with Costa Rica, and at the price, the HT/FT market appeals as well as the winning margin.
DRAW/CROATIA – HT/FT
CROATIA -1 HANDICAP DRAW
Brazil v South Korea
A shock defeat to Cameroon in their last group game will have unsettled some of the Brazilian fans, even if it had no effect on their standing within the group. What’s potentially more worrying though is the injury sustained by Gabriel Jesus, ruling the Arsenal forward out for the remainder of the tournament, though as one door closes, another opens, and Neymar’s return will be an unwelcome sight for Korea fans.
The Asian side managed the unthinkable in achieving a stunning victory over Portugal to qualify for the knockout stages. A late Hwang Hee-Chan winner sent the Korean fans into raptures, and they’ll be hoping they can produce a similar result here against a Brazil side that has somewhat flattered to deceive this tournament. Just three second half goals are all Tite’s side have to their name so far, which is extremely few by their lofty standards, and Korea will be confident of stifling them again.
With that said, Brazil have an astonishing W26-D1-L1 record against AFC sides since 1990, winning each of their last 19 such games, 15 of which came to nil, so this will be a real challenge for Korea. That said, the one defeat in that time did come at the hands of the Koreans back in 1999, though a 5-1 Brazil win in their latest meeting back in June carries more weight.
Only at Italia ’90 have Brazil fallen at the Last 16 stage, winning six of their seven matches since (draw with Chile in 2014), while five of those six wins came to nil, while all but one of those seven games finished under 3.5 goals. The Asian side have done phenomenally to qualify for the knockouts, though a win here seems a step too far, and although we expect Brazil to qualify, we’ll back Korea to make is closer than they did in June.
BRAZIL TO WIN AND UNDER 3.5 GOALS
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