Croatia v Brazil – Tactics & Match Report: FIFA WC 2022

Croatia v Brazil – Tactics & Match Report: FIFA WC 2022

  • Tactics
  • December 10, 2022
  • No Comment

“IT’S NEYMAAAAAR, 1-0 BRAZIL”. Most spectators thought Brazil had finally qualified for the semifinals after being eliminated in the quarter-finals of three of their previous four World Cups. Who would have predicted that Croatia could mount such a magnificent comeback with only 15 minutes remaining?

With less than 5 minutes remaining, Brazil’s back line was exposed in the 115th minute. In a 4v4 counter-attacking situation, the Brazilian backline was seen backpedaling anxiously, attempting to get back into position to stop the counter.

With three defenders positioned extremely centrally, and right-back Militao drawn inwards by a brilliant diagonal run, Mislav Oršić had all the space in the world to pick a pass back into Petković’s feet. Petković’s shot deflected off the calf of Marquinhos and flew right into the bottom left corner of the net; a goal inspired by two substitutes.

Croatia had done what they do best, putting on a vicious, driven display that was eventually rewarded with an equaliser late in the game.

Then came the penalties, and the stadium fell silent as onlookers watched on nervously.

It was once again up to Livaković to put on a spectacular performance. Vlašić converted Croatia’s first penalty, sending Alisson the wrong way. Rodrygo took Brazil’s first penalty. He, too, shot down the middle, but Livaković read the shot and came up with a spectacular save. Both teams’ penalties after that were superbly executed, with the keepers having little chance of making contact with the ball.

However, when it came to the fourth penalty, where Brazil needed to score to stay in the game, Marquinhos fired to the left of the goal, and Livaković dived to the right. Brazil appeared to have lived to see another day, but the shot ricocheted off the post. Brazil’s players and fans collapsed in agony as the Croats, the tournament’s first semi-finalists, sprinted toward the stands.

Despite the outcome, this match will go down in history. With a stunning performance from Livaković and another world-class showcase by Modrić, how did Croatia stun Brazil in such a surprising fashion?


croatia lineup vs brazil fifa world cup qatar 2022
Croatia’s lineup vs Brazil

On paper, the Vatreni lined up in a 4-3-3, with penalty hero Dominik Livaković in goal. Lovren, 33, and Gvardiol, 20, took their places in the backline. Borna Sosa and Josip Juranović, two marauding fullbacks, flanked them.

The midfield trio of Brozović, Kovačić, and Modrić are without a doubt one of the best and most experienced in the tournament. Top scorer Ivan Perišić and Mario Pašalić held the width up front, with Andrej Kramarić playing through the middle.

In Possession

In possession, Zlatko Dalić set up his team in a 4-3-3, with marauding wing backs and Pasalic playing a much more reserved role than Perisic.

The three midfielders dropping back to assist were crucial to Croatia’s build-up. Despite the fact that Gvardiol and Lovren are reliable on the ball, Croatia anticipated that Brazil would try to show them wide and press them along the touchline. As a result, Croatia frequently dropped two or three midfielders into the backline to create a numerical overload.

Brozović was frequently seen dropping between the centre-backs in the build-up, with Modrić and Kovačić dropping to the sides, allowing Sosa or Juranović to push even higher. Although this left a gap in the midfield, Pašalić on the right was always available to drift centrally and provide a progressive option.

Out of Possession

Croatia played aggressively from the start, committing players to the press and attempting to capitalise on Brazil’s mistakes. Kramarić, often the highest presser, frequently showed the ball toward Brazil’s right side, attempting to prevent the ball from progressing to Brazil’s left side, where Neymar and Vinicius Jr were waiting to pounce.

Such a strategy was highly effective, and with Modrić keeping Casemiro out of the game, it was difficult for Brazil to play the way they wanted.


brazil lineup vs croatia fifa world cup 2022 qatar
Brazil’s lineup vs Croatia

The Seleção also lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Alisson remained in goal, supported by an experienced backline of Danilo, Silva, Marquinhos, and Militão. The midfield three of Neymar, Casemiro, and Paquetá were an offensive trio with Casemiro being the only defensive player.

Up front, prolific attackers Vinicius Jr, Richarlison, and Raphinha lead the line.

In Possession

Despite Croatia’s aggressive press, Brazil attempted to play out from the back. Danilo played an inverted role alongside Casemiro, as Kramarić’s pressing blocked his passing lane, but with Kovačić and Brozović ready to jump and pressure him, his role as a faux centre-midfielder had little impact on the game.

Brazil often played the ball towards their right side, utilising Militão, Raphinha, and Paquetá to create overloads. Nonetheless, with a hardworking Perišić ready to sprint back to defend, Brazil struggled to create dangerous chances.

Out of Possession

Brazil played rather conventionally out of possession, employing a 4-4-2 defensive structure and attempting to show Croatia wide. However, Brazil’s lack of a solid midfield presence was glaring, and Croatia’s midfield three were almost always able to progress the ball past Brazil’s press.

However, in a low block, Brazil were defensively solid, preventing Croatia from getting any shots on target. Only late in extra time, when Brazil’s backline was caught off guard by a dangerous counter-attack, did Croatia fire their first shot on goal, tying the game.


With the tournament favourites Brazil eliminated, the Vatreni advanced to the semi-finals to face Argentina. Tite’s final World Cup ends in anguish and despair, and the Seleção are sent home on yet another early flight. Croatia’s performance astounded the world, as they won on penalties yet again and are a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen whether they can outplay Argentina or hold them to a draw, forcing the match to go to penalties once more.

Also read: England – Tactical Analysis: FIFA WC 2022

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