Croatia vs. Brazil
How to watch: 10 a.m. Eastern. Fox, Telemundo.
The group stage served as preamble for Brazil: three matches to acclimate, adapt and learn before the real World Cup began, with a 4-1 drubbing of South Korea that showcased the Seleção at their mightiest, and most fun. Richarlison and Raphinha feinting, Neymar and Vinicius Jr. flicking — it is soccer set to samba music.
But Brazil’s quarterfinal opponent relishes quashing that joy, until all that is left is pain. Croatia outlasts opponents. It breaks them down, it persists and then it prevails. Though luck certainly intervenes in the sport from time to time, Croatia’s last four victories in the elimination round — dating to 2018 — have followed a distinct pattern, coming in extra time after it trailed. Of the four, three came in penalty shootouts. That is not just luck.
The coach, Zlatko Dalic, said his team reflects the spirit of the Croatian people, whose nationalistic pride was forged from the Balkan nation’s war of independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. They have, at the least, a certain calmness and confidence, a resilience about them. But they will need goals, too, though — multiple, probably — to oust Brazil.