Photo: Neymar JR (Getty Images)
The most historic event is about to kick-off and the world now turn its head to South America as Brazil open the curtains for the 2014 World Cup against 1998 third place nation Croatia. It is a very important game not just for both teams but for the other 30 teams to see what the atmosphere is like in the 'Samba Land.'
Both teams will be looking to kick-start their campaign with a victory but for the hosts it is the opportunity to send an early message to the rest of the genuine contenders. The Selecao is one of the hot favourites to lift the coveted world title but faces a tricky group in which they are expected to finish on top.
This game could be much closer than what is expected with both teams having excellent players in their ranks. Brazil has a healthy squad to choose from which means David Luiz is expected to partner Thiago Silva in central defense with Julio Cesar in goal. Dani Alves and Marcelo should be the wing backs with Luiz Gustavo sitting in central midfield with Paulinho.
The attacking trio behind the main striker who is most likely to be Fred should be Neymar operating from the left,Oscar playing off the striker and Hulk on the right. This team is very balanced with great athleticism, pace and craft. Liuz Felipe Scolari also has a bench of stars to choose from mainly Willian, Fernandinho, Hernanes and Ramires.
Croatia on the other hand has some injury problems. First choice left back Ivan Strinic of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk has been ruled out of the World Cup due to a hamstring injury. His likely back-up was Danijel Pranjic but he picked up a nasty ankle injury against Australia in a friendly and will be out for this fixture. Otherwise they have a healthy team for Niko Kovac to choose from.
Stipe Pletikosa should be in goal with Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka in central defense. Skipper Darijo Srna and Sime Vrsaljko should be in the wing back positions with Luka Modric expected to be partnered by Ognjen Vukojevic in central midfield. Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic are expected to line-up behind Nikica Jelavic up front, in the absence of the suspended Mario Mandzukic.
Brazil should get the better of the Croats but Croatia is an experienced team and if Luka Modric has his say on the day then Brazil could be in trouble. Thiago Silva and his troops know this is not an easy fixture and will have to be at their best from the first whistle. The neutrals will be hoping for an entertaining game and hopefully the games beyond will bring more excitement or even surprises.
Players to Watch:
Brazil - Neymar, Oscar and Thiago Silva.
Croatia - Luka Modric, Darijo Srna and Ivan Rakitic.
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