The host nation has never tasted defeat in their opening World Cup fixture and Brazil are the least likely of footballing nations to change this record for the worst when they take on Croatia in the opening fixture of the 2014 World Cup.
However history has a special place for this type of fixture, 8 of the last 12 opening games have produced just one goal or none at all.
To give more strength to this argument, Croatia have conceded 11 times in 13 games at the World Cup stage, so perhaps a slim Brazil win (1-0) would be a safe score line to have your bet on.
Spare a special thought for Brazil’s class of 2014, most of them have never been to this stage further, none of them was even born the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. However on their fringe shoulders, a whole nations dreams and aspirations rest.
Majority of players called up by Luiz Felipe Scolari have not taken part in a World Cup, either the qualifiers or the finals. The decent mileage for their clubs however, playing in tough leagues such as the Premier League and La Liga, as well as the Champions League should help a bit, after all- aren’t they facing players who play in these leagues?
The Seleção however need to remember, Scolari is a man whose style is simple, loves it slow but very direct.
Watching Brazil against Serbia, you would have to agree with the Brazilian crowd, they can be so demanding. Serbia did provide some moments of difficulty for the Brazilians, but in Fred, they had a winner and even more greater, the crowd at the Corinthians today should be read for such a test.
Brazil in their element can be very destructive and ruthless, Oscar, Neymar and Willian might have not had a trophy to show for their season, actually most of the names in this Brazilian squad didn’t lift some sort of huge silverware but the hunger to fight for the grandest of them should fire them swiftly through the group stage.
It’s expected, Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari should field a 4-2-3-1 formation for this game. (Cesar; Alves, Luiz, Silva, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred),
I doubt if there shall be so much noise about Cesar starting, he’s not got so much playing time in the past two seasons but just got enough mileage to warrant a starting berth.
Alves, Luiz, Silva and Marcelo is a dream defence line for any national team coach- Thiago Silva and Luiz shall be playing together next season at PSG remember, the French league shall be watching this in anticipation of the future.
Should Oscar not step up to the plate expect to see Willian brought on, I think that’s how things work. In Gustavo and Paulinho, Brazil however have not so much to worry about, besides- not so many times are teams going to bring the game to Brazil especially in the group stages.
Scolari has in the past clearly stated, he would never gamble with the squad. He shall stick with his team thus expect the trio of Neymar, Hulk and Fred. For me Neymar is the skilled one, the poster boy while Fred, the underdog. Not so praised but has always popped up with the crucial goals. Rraely scores several in a game; he’s got Neymar and Hulk, proven world class strikers who should damage any opposition.
In technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira and Scolari, Brazil have two great managers of our generation who have both won the World Cup and even managed beyond their home country.
In a match where the only upset would be Croatia scoring and stopping Brazil, the Croats have in themselves the greatest challenge.
While a Brazil win will be seen as expected, a Croatian win might just spark one of the greatest surprises in World Cup history.
Missing Striker Mario Mandzukic who is suspended following a red card in the play-off against Iceland in November, Eduardo shall be called upon to play against his country of birth.
While he shall not expect a really loud backlash from the fans like Diego Costa will when Spain kick off their World Cup, the pressure on his shoulders in the absence of Mandzukic should ready him for the tougher stages of the tournament should Croatia advance.
How a 4-3-2-1 (Pletikosa; Srna, Lovren, Corluka, Pranjic; Vukojevic, Modric; Perisic, Rakitic, Kovacic; Eduardo) counters the Brazilian style will be an exciting one to watch, however, with Olic’s age not on his side, expect to see every little from him in attack.
Croatia will not just be here to fill up the numbers; in Modric they have another exciting world class midfielder. Kovacic the player the Italian Media have hailed as the next ‘Little Mozart’ and Rakitic (Sevilla Captain heading to Bracelona, not everyone gets such an opportunity) will all seek to battle it out in the middle of the pack.
Pletikosa had a horrible season on loan at Tottenham Hostpurs in the 2010-2011 season; actually in his whole time there, he just had one chance, a 4-1 defeat in the hands of Arsenal in the League Cup. With over 110 caps for Country alone, his Euro 2008 performance brought him closer to the class of elite goalkeepers in the World. Now he’s got another chance, perhaps his final World Cup. (He alongside Spain’s Keeper iker Casillas are the only two keepers with over 100 caps for country).
I appreciate Niko Kovac’s work in this team (was appointed in October last year), got through a hard playoff and trust me, had other coaches been in his position, he would have opted for the easy way out- park the bus.
Nevertheless, he is a man who loves his football. In a presser last week, he said “Croatia never packed the bus against anyone and we won’t start doing that now”.
Thank you for kicking it off for us Niko, no buses, just football.
Bring it on!
I’ve come across several beautiful promo’s, however, this caught my eye- Enjoy!