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Argentina, Brazil rivarly divides home fans in Qatar



In Doha, Qatar

Residents of Qatar may be forced to become temporary rivals if their two favourite teams at the World Cup, Brazil and Argentina, win their quarterfinals on Friday.

Record five-time champions Brazil face 2018 finalists Croatia in the first quarterfinals at Education City Stadium from 6pm (local and Kenyan time) before 1986 and 1978 champions Argentina play the Netherlands at the giant Lusail Stadium, kick-off 10pm.

Wins for these two South American giants will set up an enticing semi-final encounter on Tuesday at the same venue that will likely see the local football supporters here torn between which sides to support.

Only a blind man in Qatar will not have noticed the big support Selecao (and Neymar) and Albicelestes(and Messi) – attract here.

In many public places in and around Doha, a common sight is that of local fans donning either the yellow Brazilian or white and blue Argentine replica jersey.

“Qataris are in between. Half support Brazil while the other half are for Argentina,” said local journalist Baseem Rawas, who was quick to add he was a Neymar fan.

But first, the two aristocrats of South American and indeed world football must negotiate through tricky quarter-finals on Friday.

Croatia warned Brazil of a tough time at Education City.

“There is no better motive than playing Brazil in the quarter-final. It is a dream for any team to play Brazil. We are one of the best eight in the world and we want to do more. We want to progress further,” said their coach Zlatko Dalic.

The Europeans may be encouraged by their record of winning seven of their last nine World Cup knockout matches and never failing to score in all these fixtures.

Croatia will also know that Brazil have lost three of their last four quarterfinals, and all these defeats have come against European opposition.

But their individual record against Brazil should make Croatia worried.

Brazil are unbeaten against the Europeans in four World Cup encounters, winning three times with one draw. Two of Brazil’s victories came in group fixtures, 1-0 in 2006 and 3-1 in 2014, when Neymar scored twice.

Neymar is expected to lead Selecao on Friday after recovering from an ankle injury.

Brazil have scored seven times while conceding just two goals and can look at their fearsome attack that includes Richarlison, Vinicius and Raphinha to deliver victory.

“My focus is on our standards. We play our game,” Brazil coach Tite (pronounced Chichi) said.

Croatia captain Luka Modric, one of the five surviving members from the 2018 teams, acknowledged the big task ahead of them.

“We have played Brazil before and they have beaten us. They are great and we have to adapt and play at a high tempo and try to keep them under control. We have to be very strong, aggressive and assertive,” he said.

The Netherlands have beaten African champions Senegal, Asian champions Qatar and have now set their sights on South American champions Argentina.

Orange coach Louis van Gaal set the tone for the clash when he said: “For us, the tournament begins tomorrow. We met in 2014. Things ended differently. I want to change that.”

Argentina have lost only once in their last 40 internationals while Netherlands, under Van Gaal are unbeaten in their last 19 outings.

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