In Focus: Vinicius' dancing feet can help Samba stars waltz into semis
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Toby Rathborne
LiveScore
Vinicius Junior shone for Brazil against South Korea
Vinicius Junior shone for Brazil against South Korea

Neymar may have dominated the pre-match headlines — but it was Vinicius Junior who stole the show against South Korea. 

The Real Madrid star has now racked up three goal contributions at the World Cup after registering a strike and an assist last time out. 

Ahead of the Selecao’s quarter-final clash, we look at the winger’s performances so far and how he can be the key to unpicking Croatia’s defence.

Brazilian brilliance

Brazil were touted as one of the favourites coming into the tournament — and they are living up to expectations. 

Tite's men are brimming with attacking talent, boasting stars like Neymar, Richarlison, Raphinha and Vinicius in their ranks. 

Vinicius has recorded one goal and two assists — his first contribution coming against Serbia, where he set up Richarlison's sublime volley. 

Against South Korea, he opened his World Cup account with a composed finish over the onrushing keeper and into the back of the net. 

He then helped wrap up the tie with a chipped cross to West Ham's Lucas Paqueta for a first-time volley that essentially secured their place in the last eight after just 36 minutes.

Madrid's magician

Vinicius Junior has been crucial to Brazil's attack at the World Cup
Vinicius Junior has been crucial to Brazil's attack at the World Cup

Vinicius' bright displays should not be surprising given his form at club level this season, where he has scored six and assisted three in 14 LaLiga outings.

When he first arrived in the Spanish capital as a teenager in 2018, he struggled with a lack of end product, managing just seven goals in his first 82 league appearances. 

But last season, he racked up a superb 17 strikes as Los Blancos lifted their 35th LaLiga title. 

Ancelotti's advice

The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti has been crucial in helping the young forward unlock his full potential and he has now also cemented his spot in this star-studded Brazil side.

Ahead of the World Cup, Tite sought the advice of Ancelotti to see how he could get the best out of the 22-year-old attacker. 

Tite, 61, said: "I asked Ancelotti for advice on what we could do, what tactical functions they did in Madrid so that he would play like he did in Madrid for the national team. 

"We talked about offensive situations that would give him creative freedom, one-on-one, the creative process. 

"It is a beautiful and transparent thing of two technicians who want the best of him."

Tite for the title

Vinicius Junior has recorded two assists for Brazil at the World Cup
Vinicius Junior has recorded two assists for Brazil at the World Cup

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil are accustomed to international football triumph — and Tite's use of Vinicius will be key. 

His qualities lie in the wide areas, where he can attack defenders in one-on-one situations using his speed and quick feet to burst past his opponent. 

Then, when in dangerous goalscoring positions, he has the composure and awareness to pick out a team-mate or take a shot on goal. 

Vinicius has proved effective thus far, completing four of his 11 dribbles and creating a remarkable eight chances for the Selecao.

Compact Croatia

Vinicius Junior scored his first goal of the tournament against South Korea
Vinicius Junior scored his first goal of the tournament against South Korea

Croatia finalists in 2018are once again proving their quality, taking down a Japan outfit that fought valiantly in their last-16 tie having already beaten Germany and Spain. 

In what was a tight match with little to separate the sides, the Europeans showed their experience in the penalty shootout to emerge victorious after shot-stopping heroics from Dominik Livakovic. 

Zlatko Dalic's side are compact and combative and boast quality in midfield with the trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic. 

To break them down, the Samba boys need their individual brilliance to shine once more. 

All eyes may end up on Neymar — but Vinicius' intelligent runs and dancing feet cannot be ignored and will be needed to help overcome their opponents' diligent defensive unit.

Tags

World CupBrazilReal MadridLaLiga
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