Selecao look to get the fans back onside with a victory in Group A opener.
The wait is finally over. World Cup 2014 is finally on the horizon as host nation favorites Brazil look to put the smiles back on the faces of the Brazilian people with an opening game win against a strong Croatia side.
It has been well documented in recent months at the concern and displeasure of a large portion of the Brazilian people over revelations at the amount of government spending on this year’s highly anticipated World Cup. In a recent poll, over 60% of people in fact dis-approved of the country hosting the tournament. This leaves more pressures on the Brazilian team than they could have imagined and it will be to Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players to make sure they don’t disappoint in Sao Paolo on Thursday afternoon.
Team News, Formation and Possible Starting Line-ups
Brazil Formation (4-2-3-1) – Julio Cesar(GK), Dani Alves, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
Brazil could potentially deploy the exact same starting line-up from last year’s convincing 3-0 win over Spain in the Confederations Cup final. With no injury concerns, Scolari will feel as though he has a full squad to choose from. Question marks of the potential frailties of this team’s defence has come under scrutiny with David Luiz and Marcelo not best known for their defensive capabilities, however, this is a team that have conceded just 2 goals in their last 9 matches. Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo will provide cover in midfield to allow to attacking talent of Hulk, Oscar and Neymar to use their ability to provide scoring chances for lone striker Fred. Brazil can feel even more buoyed with the interesting stat that no host nation has ever lost the opening game of the World Cup – with the 20 previous hosts winning 14 and drawing 6 of their openers.
Player to watch: – Neymar Kid sensation turned global superstar, Neymar can provide the spark for this Brazil team throughout the tournament yet alone this match. I am expecting him to play a key part if Brazil are to be success in this competition with most of the country’s hopes lying at his feet.
Possible Formation/Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) – Pletikosa (GK), Srna, Vida, Lovren, Corluka; Vukojevic, Modric; Perisic, Rakitic, Kovacic; Olic.
With quite possibly the most talented Croatian team to ever grace the world stage, along with the so called ‘underdog’ label, Niko Kovac and his men can feel quietly confident going into this game. Unbeaten in the 5 games since national legend Kovac took over (winning 3; drawing 2), this Croatia team possesses a vast array of talent and will certainly be no push-overs in this match. Without suspended Bayern Munich frontman Mario Mandzukic along with a potential injury to left-back Danijel Pranjic, Croatia are one or two players short of full-strength but by no means are out of this tie. Experienced right-back and captain, Darijo Srna will make his 114th cap on the night and will lead a back-line compromised Corluka, Lovren and possibly either Vida or Vrsaljko covering for the injured Pranjic. Holding midfielder Vukojevic will allow Luka Modric the freedom in the middle of the park whilst the exciting trio of Perisic, Rakitic and Kovacic will provide an exciting attacking flair to the Croatian ranks. Experienced striker Ivica Olic will more than likely deputise for the suspended Mandzukic. Nikica Jelavic and Eduardo will most likely have to settle places on the bench. Croatia will also be going into this tournament boasting an impressive defensive record, conceding just 11 goals in their last 13 games (0.85/game) – the best ratio of all 32 qualifying nations.
Brazil are likely to get their World Cup campaign off to a win, but do not expect them to achieve it in traditional samba-style. Croatia are by no means an easy task for this Brazilian side who will struggle to dominate possession for parts of this game in my opinion. The emergence of Rakitic and Kovacic this season along with the brilliance of Luka Modric will give the Selecao something to think about. I do, however, feel as though the absence of talisman Mandzukic will give them a lack of fire-power up top against this resilient Brazilian defence and can see Neymar and co. just edging this close encounter. After all, Brazil’s last home defeat came 37 matches ago against a Paraguay side in 2002. Brazil to win 1-0.