The curtain-raiser of the 2014 World Cup gets underway Thursday as the highly-hyped hosts of Brazil take on a Croatia squad that will be keen to spoil what promises to be quite the party. Brazil enters this tournament under much scrutiny, yet remain the rightful pre-tournament favourites. They possess quality in every position across the pitch, and their depth, speed, and skill should be on full display to kick off one of sport’s greatest tournaments. That said, this is a fairly untested and youthful squad, and the expectations of this big moment may prove to be too heavy of a burden for the Brazilians. Some early-match nerves aren’t out of the question.
Croatia has been in big games before and should relish the opportunity to play Brazil to open the competition. This is a good attacking squad led by midfield maestro Luka Modric. While they lack significant depth, they remain legitimate contenders of advancing from Group A and into the knockout stages. A shock result against the Brazilians would certainly put them well on their way to achieving that goal.
Brazil vs. Croatia Betting Odds:
Brazil (-350) / Draw (+450) / Croatia (+1000)
Over 2.5 (-105) / Under 2.5 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Brazil vs. Croatia Prediction:
The Croatians have the rare opportunity to make 65,00 rabid and screaming fans seem as silent as a library on Thursday evening. The weight of the expectations on Team Brazil seems to be unprecedented in recent memory. Brazil was roundly booed in a pre-tournament friendly against Panama – a game in which they won. While their performance was underwhelming, it shouldn’t take away from their ability to reign supreme when all is said and done in July. The Brazilians are a dynamic squad, blessed with speed and skill. Their depth and attacking prowess down the flanks will prove very difficult to handle for a Croatia squad that is slated to be without their top striker in Mario Mandzukic. Mandzukic will be suspended for this opening fixture, but will return for their remaining games against Cameroon and Mexico.
The Croatian defense is undoubtedly the weak point of their squad, and should be their downfall in this opening match. While their options on the attack are promising, it won’t mean much if they don’t possess the ball. Look for Brazil to control the game, and they’ll ultimately look to put on a show in front of their passionate fan base. While they may be guilty of trying to do too much at times, Brazil should be able to toy with the Croatian back-line. The likes of Neymar, Hulk, Fred, and Oscar in the middle are simply too talented to not collect a full three points and a couple of goals from this match.
Look for the Croatians to put in a valiant effort, but ultimately fall short. While much of the fanfare and hype surrounding this opening match will be focused on the likes of Neymar and his talented array of teammates, Croatia possesses some world-class talent of their own. Don’t be surprised to see the Croatians score, but Brazil ultimately to emerge victorious. Brazil’s talent up front against a questionable Croatian defense will be a major mismatch. Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka are old and will be overmatched in the centre of defense. Neymar enters the World Cup as one of the game’s most in-form strikers and will look to make his mark in a big way on Thursday. A 2-1 or 3-1 scoreline seems fitting to kick-off the 2014 World Cup.
PICK = Over 2.5 Goals (-105)