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Brazil tackle Chile in all South American showdown

Chile-Brazil

Photo: Alexis Sanchez and Neymar battle for the ball (Getty Images)

The group stages are now over and the 16 teams that remain will be gunning for a place in the final 8 (quarter-finals) as the knock-out stages kicks off on Saturday. Hosts Brazil has a tough fixture on their hands as they take on neighbours Chile in a crunch clash in Belo Horizonte.

Brazil ran out as Group A winners ahead of CONCACAF giants Mexico with both nations finishing on 7 points. The Selecao had a better goal difference having scored 7 times and conceded just twice while Mexico hit the net four times and conceded just once. Chile finished runners up to the Netherlands in Group B, amassing 6 points upsetting defending champions Spain before losing their final group game to the Dutch.

This sets up a mouth-watering clash because both teams like to attack, play expansive football and entertain the fans. Jorge Sampaoli’s men has dazzled at times playing with good pace, intensity and have been dynamic in attack. The Brazilians hasve improved over the three games and hit their strides against Cameroon. There was a lot more confidence and assurance in their play and they utilized the crowd to great effect feeding off their energy.

Luiz Felipe Scolari may have found a solution to his struggling central midfield in Man City’s Fernandinho. The 29 years old replaced Paulinho at half time against Cameroon and provided the missing link between midfield and attack. Their play was a lot more fluid as he used his technical qualities and touch to retain possession as well as distribute the ball. He may find himself in the starting 11 against Chile and after lifting the Premier League title with Manchester City, he will be confident and buoyant about starting in such a big game.

Julio Cesar should keep his place in goal while Thiago Silva and David Luiz will be hoping to be a lot more solid as they looked a bit erratic at times in the groups stages. Dani Alves and Marcelo will hope to provide more defensive coverage because they are excellent going forward as things stands at the moment.

Luiz Gustavo has remained disciplined sitting in the hole in the middle of the park protecting the defense and he could be joined by Fernandinho. As usual, Neymar will lead the attack and has 4 goals so far in the tournament. He will be assisted by Oscar, Hulk and Fred in attack. Neymar must step up and deliver a big performance if Brazil are to progress. He is the magician in the team and with Fernandinho and Oscar on the pitch he should get some good service.

Chile will have new Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo in goal with Gary Medel and Gonzalo Jara in a defense that has let in three goals in 3 games. Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena will look to push forward from wing back and star man Arturo Vidal should return after being rested against the Netherlands. The tricky and speedy Alexis Sanchez should provide the attacking threat and be a menace all evening for the Brazil defense. He will be playing off Eduardo Vargas who has impressed so far with his movement and handling of the ball.

If things go according to the script then a very entertaining game is in prospect. The football world should expect end to end action between two teams that love to push forward. Brazil has won the last 5 fixtures against Chile but this World Cup has been very unpredictable and with Chile playing well and the return of Vidal, this game is nicely poised and could go either way.

Players to Watch

Brazil – Neymar, Luiz Gustavo, Oscar.

Chile – Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Gary Medel.

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