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The odds for Brazil vs South Korea are supplied by the FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving new customers a generous $1000 no-sweat first bet.
There is a certain mystique to Brazilian soccer. The five-time world champions have produced more than their fair share of world-class players down the years, many of whom have captured the imagination of millions. Brazilian attackers are especially obvious magnets for adulation: think Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
One thing that often gets overlooked, however, is Brazil’s contribution to the defensive aspects of the game. That is perhaps because it does not fit so naturally with the myth of a fun-loving, free-flowing style where putting on a show is of the utmost importance. Samba soccer, if you will.
Most notably Brazil was the country that invented the back four ahead of World Cup 1958, a tournament they won. They triumphed in 1994 because, according to the manager Carlos Alberto Parreira, they were better without the ball than anyone else. In the victorious campaign of 2002, the Selecao let in one goal in four knockout games.
Heading into World Cup 2022, the attention was principally focused on the wealth of attacking options available to Tite. The strength in depth is indeed excellent, with Gabriel Jesus, Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli waiting in reserve, and the likes of Roberto Firmino not even called up.
But somewhat overlooked in the pre-tournament discussion was Brazil’s superb defensive record of late. Their backline was breached just five times in 17 qualifiers in South America. They kept clean sheets in more than half of their matches at Copa America 2021.
Brazil conceded in a 1-0 defeat by Cameroon last time out, but that was a meaningless game contested by their second-string XI. Prior clean sheets against Serbia and Switzerland ably demonstrated that Brazil’s first team will not be easy to score against in Qatar. Needless to say, that is a problem for any team that faces them from here on in.
Matchday three of the group stage brought some incredible drama and there have already been calls for FIFA to rethink its plan to move away from four-team groups at World Cup 2026 in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
South Korea contributed to the excitement on Thursday. It seemed like Ghana vs Uruguay was the match that would determine which of those sides advanced to the knockout phase alongside Portugal. Indeed, Uruguay thought they were set to do just that as they protected a 2-0 lead… only to learn that South Korea had scored in second-half stoppage time against the Portuguese.
That goal from Hwang Hee-chan changed everything. Suddenly the Taeguk Warriors climbed above Ghana on points and ahead of Uruguay on goal difference. With the South Americans unable to score again, South Korea went through as Group H runners-up.
Few saw it coming. Paulo Bento’s side had performed well up to that point. Their approach play was neat in a 0-0 draw with Uruguay, but they lacked a cutting edge. That was not a problem against Ghana, but South Korea were defensively slack and went down 3-2 in a thrilling encounter in Al Rayyan.
Yet Paulo Bento’s side kept fighting until the very last minute and they were ultimately rewarded for their never-say-die attitude. Neither neutral soccer fans nor the best online sportsbooks fancy their chances against Brazil, but South Korea have already realized their main objective at this tournament. Anything from here would be a bonus.
Having only played their last group games on Friday, Brazil and South Korea have not had much turnaround time ahead of this last-16 clash.
That usually favors the underdogs, whose aim is to narrow the gap in quality between the teams. But since Brazil were able to rest several regular starters against Cameroon, their first XI should be in better shape here.
South Korea had success against Ghana by sending crosses into the penalty area, but that tactic will be harder to pull off here. They must first have sustained possession in advanced areas in order to work the ball out wide and get bodies into the box. Brazil are not the hardest pressers in the tournament but they will certainly close South Korea down in their own half.
Brazil have also excelled at shutting down opposition counter-attacks. South Korea do possess speed on the break, not least via Son Heung-min. But Brazil look better equipped than other World Cup 2022 heavyweights to deal with that threat.
All in all, it is tricky to see South Korea finding the back of the net on Monday. Brazil have not really dazzled so far, but they are ticking along nicely and aiming to peak at the right time. Back them to win to nil in the round of 16.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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