KAZAN ARENA, Russia, July 6, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Versatile defender Marcelo returned to the starting line-up and midfielder Fernandinho was handed his first World Cup start in four years on Friday for Brazil’s quarter-final clash with Belgium.
Marcelo was sidelined from Brazil’s 2-0 last-16 win over Mexico in Samara after suffering back spasms in a 2-0 win over Serbia.
But the the 30-year-old Real Madrid player is fully fit, offering Brazil attacking options down the left flank for a game Belgium’s “Golden Generation” of players must win if they are to fulfil expectations of reaching the latter stages.
Coach Tite’s second change sees Fernandinho replace Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, the Manchester City midfielder handed his first start in Russia.
It is also his first World Cup start since Brazil’s 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014 when he was replaced at half-time.
Belgium were ousted from the 2014 quarter-finals 1-0 by Argentina and after a 3-1 quarter-final defeat to Wales at Euro 2016, the Red Devils are desperate to go a step further.
But they face a Brazil side that is undefeated in their last 15 outings in all competitions, conceding just three goals in the process, including one in the group stages.
Coach Roberto Martinez has made two changes from the side that squeezed into the last eight with a last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan following an impressive group campaign in which they scored nine goals and conceded just two.
Martinez switched from a 3-4-2-1 formation to a 3-4-3. Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini was repaid for his efforts against Japan to partner Axel Witsel in the centre of midfield and Nacer Chadli, who scored the late winner against Japan, replaced Yannick Carrasco.
Belgium’s three-pronged attack will see Kevin De Bruyne and captain Eden Hazard provide support to front man Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in Russia so far.
Starting line-ups for the World Cup quarter-final between Brazil and Belgium at Kazan Arena (kick-off: 1800 GMT):
Alisson; Fagner, Thiago Silva, Joao Miranda (capt), Marcelo; Paulinho, Fernandinho; Willian, Philippe Coutinho, Neymar; Gabriel Jesus
Coach: Tite (BRA)
Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel, Nacer Chadli; Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard (capt)
Coach: Roberto Martinez (ESP)
Referee: Milorad Mazic (SRB)