The greatest sporting event in the world is upon us as the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off with host nation Brazil squaring off against Croatia in the opening match of the showpiece event at the Arena Corinthians, São Paulo on Thursday (1:00 PM PST).
With the World Cup being hosted in Brazil, anything else than triumph in the competition will be seen as a failure by the Seleção. With the talented side at manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s disposal the fans’ expectation are well justified and as a result, the Brazil national team have been placed as favourites alongside Spain to lift the prestigious trophy.
However, playing under a huge weight of expectation is never easy and it goes without saying that Brazil will need to perform at their best if they are to lift the World title on home soil.
The Seleção kick off their World Cup campaign against Croatia and it is of paramount importance that they pick up a victory so as to please the expectant home fans as well as relieve a lot of pressure off of their shoulders.
That being said, Croatia is a well drilled outfit which can cause problems to even the best of teams and they will undoubtedly be looking to play party poopers come Thursday night.
While not many expect Croatia to go all the way, manager Niko Kovac has assembled a very good squad consisting of a host of top class players. Placed in a group consisting of Brazil, Cameroon and Mexico, the Croats should be confident of making it into the knockout phases of the competition.
The clash against Brazil is very tough as they will not only be battling against the talented Seleção side but their legions of fanatic supporters at the 50,000 capacity Arena Corinthians, in São Paulo. Although they are certainly not the favourites, Croatia earning at least a draw is well within the realms of possibility.
Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has drilled a solid if unspectacular Brazilian squad but it is not to say the Seleção lack flair in their lineup. Brazil look a well balanced team under Scolari and should do well against the Croats.
Julio Cesar looks the undisputed number choice between the sticks for Brazil and the veteran goalkeeper will be shielded by a solid as well as adventurous defence consisting of Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo.
Scolari has a wealth of options in midfield but the duo of Ramires and Luiz Gustavo seem to be his preferred duo at the middle of the park. That being said, Fernandinho and Paulinho are also in contention to start.
Brazil’s attacking lineup seems to have gradually progressed into a coherent unit capable of causing problems to even the best defences in the world.
Fred will be the focal point of the Brazilian attack while the likes of Oscar, Hulk and superstar Neymar provide the ammunition in front of goal.
Croatia possess a very good team in their own right. Manager Niko Kovac has a host of top class players to choose from and it will be interesting to see which lineup he elects to go with.
Stipe Pletikosa will be starting in goal and the custodian will be playing behind an experienced defence most probably consisting of captain Darijo Srna, Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka and Domagoj Vida.
The midfield is probably Croatia’s biggest strength as the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic are all top class players and will be posing a great threat to the Brazilian defence.
The dangerous Ivan Perisic and Ivica Olic will probably be deployed out wide while Nikica Jelavic looks set to be leading the line in the absence of the banned Mario Mandzukic. Eduardo Da Silva and Ante Rebic are also good options for Kovac to choose from.
Brazil (Probable XI): Cesar; Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Neymar, Ramires, Oscar, Luiz Gustavo, Hulk; Fred
Croatia (Probable XI): Pletikosa; Srna, Lovren, Corluka ,Vida; Perisic, Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic, Olic; Jelavic
Brazil: W W W W W
Croatia: D W D W W
Brazil vs Croatia Prediction
The World Cup’s opening game is arguably the most anticipated match of the competition after the final itself and considering two quality teams will be battling it out, the clash could prove to be a spectacle.
Backed by their fanatic crowd and brilliant squad, Brazil are certainly favourites heading into the clash. However, they will be well aware of the fact that Croatia is a fine team who will cause them problems throughout the course of the ninety minutes.
The midfield battle will probably give pointers as to which team will be able to gain the upper hand. The Brazilian midfield is top class consisting of Ramires and Luiz Gustavo but in Luka Modric Croatia possess arguably the world’s best midfield orchestrator and stopping the Real Madrid superstar will be of paramount importance for the Brazilians.
In terms of attack, Brazil boast the talents of Neymar, Hulk and Fred, and look much stronger especially with Mario Mandzukic missing for the Croats, while defensively Scolari seem to have an upper hand as well, due to the fact that he possess a better unit.
Overall Brazil look the better squad and in front of their home fans, should be able to claim a victory. However, it will be anything but easy for the World Cup hosts.
Brazil 3 – 1 Croatia
Brazil vs Croatia Television
The Brazil vs Croatia match will be televised in the USA on ESPN3 (stream) and Univision Deportes at 1:00 PM Pacific on Friday.