The 2014 World Cup gets underway this Thursday with Brazil’s opening game against Croatia at the Estadio do Maracana with kick off at 9.00pm. The hosts will be expecting to get their campaign off to a successful start but face arguably their most difficult opponents in Group A in Croatia.
As hosts of this World Cup Brazil did not have to endure a gruelling South American qualification campaign. Winning last year’s Confederations Cup and most notably beating Spain 3-0 in the Final have raised expectations that they can lift the World Cup on home soil.
Croatia finished 2nd in their qualification group behind Belgium. They secured their place in Brazil with a 2-0 against Iceland in the play offs. Their most recent friendly was a 1-0 victory over Australia
The 22-year-old Barcelona attacker is the golden boy of Brazilian football. He will provide the creativity in this Brazil team and despite enjoying an indifferent season with Barcelona he is expected to light up the World Cup. The former Santos prodigy has already scored 31 goals at international level.
Modric is just off the back of a very successful campaign at Real Madrid winning the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. The Real Madrid midfielder announced himself on the international stage back in 2008 when he was included in the Euro 2008 “Team of the Tournament”. The Croatian will look to impose his creative talent at his first World Cup.
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to pick a 4-2-3-1 formation with Thiago Silva and David Luiz at centre half. Luiz Gustavo could be favoured to be partnered by Paulinho or Manchester City’s Fernandinho. Fred is the leading candidate to lead the line supported by Neymar, Oscar and Hulk with Willian kept in reserve.
Croatia adopted a 4-2-3-1 in their most recent friendly win with Jelavic leading the line. Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic is expected to replace Jelavic in a side that also includes Southampton defender Dejan Lovren and Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
Brazil, on home soil, will be expected to get their campaign off to a winning start against Croatia. The Croatians possess quality in midfield areas but with Thiago Silva manning the Brazil defence they may find it difficult to penetrate the Samba reserve.
Brazil to win 2-0.
Dan Dalton, Pundit Arena.