As Croatia prepares to face World Cup favorites Brazil in their quarter-final clash on Friday, defender Dejan Lovren is bracing himself for another confrontation with his old nemesis Neymar.
The 33-year-old centre-back Lovren has faced Neymar on three occasions and lost every time, with the unstoppable Brazilian scoring four goals against him. Those encounters include Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 in a World Cup group-stage clash in 2014 when Neymar scored twice and a friendly at Anfield in 2018 a week before the start of the World Cup in Russia when he scored in his side’s 2-0 win.
Croatia and Brazil have met five times in all, with the South Americans winning three times and the two sides drawing twice. Perhaps the most painful memory for Lovren, though, will be Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to a Neymar-inspired Paris St-Germain in the Champions League group stage in 2018. Neymar scored the winner and put on a masterclass that night in Paris, with Lovren struggling to contain him.
While Liverpool had the last laugh that season, putting that loss behind them and going on to win the Champions League, Lovren all but vanished from Juergen Klopp’s selection for the rest of the competition, making the starting lineup only once more.
On Friday, Croatia will have a bigger problem than just Neymar however, with young guns Vinicius Jr, Lucas Paqueta and Richarlison all rising to the occasion and shining for Brazil at this World Cup. Lovren, who generally starts as a right-side centre back, will have the support of RB Leipzig prodigy Josko Gvardiol to help him. The 20-year-old Gvardiol has been brilliant so far for Croatia, putting in a number of goal-saving tackles to keep his side alive in their games.
Indeed, Croatia have conceded only two goals in their four games so far in Qatar. Their toughest challenge yet will be to stop the Brazilian juggernaut on Friday.