Brazil is opening their World Cup against Croatia and many assume that it is a automatic win for them. El Selecao are playing on home soil after all, and their team was exempt from going through the gauntlet of World Cup qualification. Add to that their star-power and pedigree, and it is no wonder that they are believed not only to be favorites for today’s opening game but also favorites to lift the World Cup trophy. However, it is a common misconception for people to count out Eastern European countries when it comes to soccer because they do not have the flashiness and history that teams such as England, Spain, Portugal, and Italy do. Croatia is a much better team then most people realize and if anyone is going to upset Brazil in the group stage it has to be them.
The best player on Croatia is Luka Modric. He makes his money playing club soccer for Real Madrid and his job during Croatia’s World Cup will be to play as a holding midfielder in charge of facilitating the offense and shoring up the defense. Ivan Rakitic is another great player who is currently rumored to be on the wish list of Barcelona. He will play in the center of the midfield alongside Luka Modric and will play as a destroyer in order to strengthen the Croatian defense against the high-octane Brazilian offense while Mateo Kovacic plays as the attacking midfielder. Unfortunately, Croatia will be without Mario Mandžukić who will be serving a one-game suspension which carried over from World Cup qualifying. He will definitely be missed but Nikita Jelavic has the talent, despite his less than satisfying Hull City club season, to put the ball in the back of the net while Mateo is forced to sit on the bench.
Neymar, Oscar David Luiz, Dani Alves, and Willian are just some of the many stars that will play for Brazil. They are quick, talented, and skilled both on and off the ball. The energy from the home crowd will spur them on even more as seen by their spectacular performances in last year’s Confederations Cup. However, since they did not have to qualify it has been awhile since they have faced the type of do-or-die games Croatia have become accustomed to after playing in the ultra-competitive European World cup qualification. Brazil deserve to be the favorites today but Croatia is capable of stealing a point here and if luck rolls their way they could possibly steal three.