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Brazil wants to keep dancing against Croatia at World Cup

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Brazil wants to keep the dancing going at the World Cup when it faces Croatia on Friday with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

The Brazilians have made it clear they will not back from their goal celebrations in Qatar despite criticism by some.

“It’s part of the Brazilian culture,” Brazil coach Tite said Thursday. “It’s not about disrespecting our opponents. It’s just who we are.”

Tite himself was dancing with his players after Brazil scored in the 4-1 win against South Korea in the round of 16 on Monday. Former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane was among those criticizing the Brazilians for their dancing.

Brazil forward Vinícius Júnior also promised more dancing if Brazil keeps succeeding.

“The goal is the most important moment in soccer, not only for those who score them but for the entire country,” said Vinícius Júnior, who had already been criticized for his dances while with Real Madrid. “We still have many celebrations left, and hopefully we can keep scoring and dancing like this until the final.”

Brazilian players had said before the tournament started that they had several goal celebrations prepared ahead of time.

To keep dancing, though, Brazil will have to get past a tough Croatia side that is led by Luka Modric and trying to return to the World Cup final four years after falling short of the title against France.

“We want to do more,” Modric said. “We must not be satisfied only with reaching the quarterfinals. We know that we have a strong opponent ahead of us. We have our own strengths and we have faith in ourselves.”

Modric knows some of the Brazilians well, as he plays with Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo and Éder Militão at Madrid, which also had Casemiro in the squad until recently. Vinícius Júnior said Modric was a reference for him, and that he learned a lot from the 37-year-old veteran midfielder.

“It’s very nice to hear Vini compliment me. He is a great guy and we have a very strong relationship,” Modric said. “He’s made progress since joining Real Madrid and has been showing that at the World Cup. We have a difficult task to try to stop him. If I can give my teammates a tip or two on how to neutralize him and on how to make his job more difficult, of course I’ll do it.”

Like Brazil, Croatia conceded only twice so far at the World Cup. The team defeated Canada 4-1 before 0-0 draws against Morocco and Belgium in the group stage. Croatia drew 1-1 with Japan in extra time in the round of 16, eventually winning in a penalty shootout.

Four of the last five matches by Croatia at World Cups have gone to extra time. The national team has been successful in seven of its last nine knockout matches at the tournament.

“They have great quality and a lot of resiliency,” Tite said. “Brazil will try to keep doing what has worked so far, and then we’ll see which team can advance.”

Brazil is looking for the team’s first victory over a European team in the knockout stage of the World Cup since the South Americans’ win against Germany in the 2002 final.

Brazil opened this tournament with wins over Serbia and Switzerland before losing to Cameroon with the team’s reserve squad in its final group game. The Seleção dominated from the start in its win against South Korea in the last 16.

Neymar, another Brazilian who celebrated by dancing, is set to start again after returning to the lineup against South Korea following a right ankle injury sustained in the opening win against Serbia.

Danilo, who also had been nursing an ankle injury, was expected to start as well, but left back Alex Sandro, who was returning from a hip injury, isn’t likely to be in the mix against Croatia.

Brazil will be playing in its eighth straight World Cup quarterfinal, and 14th overall — joint-most with Germany. The national team has lost three of its last four quarterfinal appearances, and was embarrassed as the host nation in the 2014 semifinal in a 7-1 defeat to Germany.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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