Inter lose Brozovic due to thigh injury

By Sports Desk September 26, 2022

Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic is facing a spell on the sidelines after suffering a thigh injury during Croatia's win over Austria.

Brozovic was withdrawn just 18 minutes into the 3-1 Nations League victory at Ernst Happel Stadion on Sunday.

The Croatian Football Federation on Monday confirmed the 29-year-old sustained a partial rupture of his left thigh and is expected to be out for several weeks.

A statement from the Federation said: "The Croatian national team midfielder, Marcelo Brozovic, underwent an MRI examination today at the Special Hospital of St. Katarina, after exiting due to an injury in the match against Austria.

"The results of the MRI showed a partial tear in the left thigh flexor, so Brozovic is expected to rest for several weeks.

"Further treatment will be taken in charged by the competent Inter doctors, who will also provide a precise recovery prognosis, and the medical service of the Croatian national team will be in constant contact with them."

The loss of Brozovic is a blow for Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi ahead as the Nerazzurri prepare to return to Serie A action against Roma on Saturday, before taking on Barcelona in the Champions League next week.

Victory for Croatia over Austria sealed top spot in Group A1 and a place in the Nations League finals.

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    Croatia, runners-up in Group F behind Morocco, face Japan on Monday in the last 16.

    Japan were the shock victors of Group E in Qatar, having claimed 2-1 victories over Germany and Spain either side of a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.

    Runners-up to France in 2018, Croatia have only lost two of their eight knockout stage games at the World Cup (W4 D2), while Japan have never progressed beyond the last 16.

    Hajime Moriyasu's team have shown their quality against top sides, however, and Dalic knows his team must stay regimented if they are to avoid an upset.

    "Spain might have thought it was going to be easier, but Japan are a team that do not quit, as they showed against Germany as well," Dalic told reporters.

    "At some point, when Costa Rica were leading against Germany, Spain were out of the tournament, so they couldn't allow themselves to lose. Japan deserved to win.

    "Before the group stage, if we could choose an opponent in the next round, some people may have said Japan, but after seeing them beat Germany and Spain, they are anything but an easier opponent.

    "If you are first in a group with Germany and Spain, it shows your quality and that you are playing at a really high level. What I would say about the Japanese team is that they never quit. They conceded goals at the beginning of the match both against Germany and Spain, but they came back.

    "They had a lot of faith in themselves, and that is a great virtue of the Japan national team. For us, it will be key that we are also disciplined and patient. We cannot make mistakes, because Japan has the quality to punish those mistakes. We need to be good at falling back if we lose the ball."

    Croatia might have progressed from a group that also included Belgium and Canada, but failed to score in two of their matches – they had only drawn a blank in two of 13 matches at the tournament in the 2006, 2014 and 2018 editions combined.

    Dalic's side like to control possession, but that could play into Japan's hands. They averaged just 32.3 per cent of the ball across their three group stage games. Indeed, their two wins over Spain and Germany came with 17.7 per cent and 26.1 per cent possession respectively, while the one match they lost came when they had more of the ball against Costa Rica (56.8 per cent).

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Japan – Ritsu Doan

    Three of Japan's four goals scored have been scored by substitutes. Ritsu Doan has netted two of these. 

    Only three players have ever scored at least three goals as a substitute at a single World Cup – Andre Schurrle in 2014 (three), Roger Milla in 1990 (four), and Laszlo Kiss in 1982 (three).

    Croatia – Ivan Perisic

    Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric run the midfield for Croatia, but their attack is not quite as world-class.

    That being said, in Ivan Perisic they have a wide player more than capable of chipping in. The 33-year-old has scored nine goals at major tournaments, which is a joint record for Croatia along with Davor Suker.

    Perisic has also set up seven goals at either the Euros or the World Cup, a national record, and no Croatia player has had more shots so far in Qatar than his tally of five.

    PREDICTION

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    Japan shocked many by winning Group E in Qatar, beating former world champions Germany and Spain to do so.

    The Samurai Blue were eliminated in the 2018 tournament by Belgium in the round of 16, losing 3-2 after taking a two-goal lead.

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    "Since 2008, I've been participating about 15 years in the World Cup process, but as far as I can see, this team is the strongest in the history of Japan's participation in the World Cup.

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    Hajime Moriyasu's side showed spirit in their wins against Germany and Spain, coming from a goal down to beat both 2-1, and Nagatomo revealed where some of their belief may have come from.

    "Before the Germany game, there is a word in Italian, 'couragio', which means 'courage', so I shook hands with each player and we said 'couragio' together," the former Inter man said.

    "I think all the players are manifesting this 'couragio' play, sometimes on the field or on the bench, but the atmosphere on the bench is also very good. I can really feel we are united as one and this is Japan's strength. I think we are the most united team at this World Cup.

    "I don't need to say 'couragio' anymore, they are passionate enough and I'm sure we're going to show the world very passionate play tomorrow. We will win.

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    When asked to elaborate on his samurai point, Nagatomo said: "Yes, I am the one who of course talks about the samurais very often. In the world, the Japanese samurais are very famous, so we'd like to fight like samurais. I think this is a great opportunity to show how we can fight as the samurai."

    Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic also alluded to the "samurai philosophy", but insisted his players will be ready, having played a part in eliminating Japan's 2018 tormentors Belgium in the group stage.

    "What I find to be of utmost importance is to demonstrate respect for opponents," Dalic said. "They beat two World Cup winners, they showed their mental strength and quality.

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    With nine goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season, Gakpo's stock has continued to rise in Qatar and rumours of a switch to United have exacerbated since the Red Devils terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo.

    LaLiga heavyweights Madrid have also been registered with an interest, while Liverpool are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

    Van Dijk has no doubt Gakpo is ready to take the next step in his career but offered a cheeky dig at Liverpool's rivals when speaking to reporters after the USA game.

    "Are Manchester United and Real Madrid on the same level? No disrespect, not at all," he said.

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    Gakpo did little to quell rumours of a January move when speaking to De Telegraaf about his future last week.

    "As it stands now, I will still be playing for PSV after the winter break," he said. "But, as I said before the start of the World Cup, we will see what will happen."

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