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World Cup

  • June 12, 2014
  • • 21:00
  • • Arena Corinthians, São Paulo, São Paulo
  • Referee: Y. Nishimura
  • • Attendance: 62103

Brazil - Croatia Preview: Hosts have never lost opening match of World Cup

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side will look to the put the troubles in the lead up to the big kick off behind them by recording an emphatic win in Sao Paulo

By Kris Voakes in Sao Paulo

When Neymar hit the ground during training on Tuesday, it appeared as though the nightmare build-up to Brazil’s first home World Cup in 64 years had carried over onto the field as well. But the news that the Barcelona ace suffered no lasting injury to his left ankle after his awakward fall will have come as a massive relief to coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The result is that the Selecao will likely take to the field against Croatia on Thursday with the same XI which lined up in four of the five matches last summer as the host nation claimed Confederations Cup glory. Neymar will take up his usual spot just behind Fred, joining Oscar and Hulk in attacking midfield positions as part of a settled line-up.

Croatia boss Niko Kovac has no such luxuries, with Danijel Pranjic unlikely to start after he picked up a nasty ankle injury in the final warm-up fixture against Australia in Salvador at the weekend. The Panathinaikos defender joins fellow left-back Ivan Strinic on the sidelines, but unlike the Dnipro man he remains in the squad with an outside chance of featuring.

Genoa’s Sime Vrsaljko stands by to take Pranjic’s place, although Vedran Corluka could move to the flank with Dynamo Kiev’s Domagoj Vida starting in the centre of defence.

Nikica Jelavic is likely to lead the line in attack after the Hull City striker netted the only goal against the Socceroos. Mario Mandzukic, who admitted this week that his time with Bayern Munich is over, sits out the opening fixture through suspension follow his sending-off for serious foul play in the World Cup qualifying play-off against Iceland in November, with Jelavic his most natural replacement.

Kovac, who skippered his country in their short-lived 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany which also began against Brazil, does at least have Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric to choose from in midfield, with Eduardo, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic all fit to join them in a five-man engine room.

Players to watch


Position: Attacker

Games: 5

  • 4
  • 1
  • 0
Ahead of the Confederations Cup 12 months ago, many football fans were asking whether Neymar could shake off the pressure of spearheading his country’s push for major honours. He replied most emphatically, scoring three goals as Scolari’s men marched past all-comers amid a tidal wave of emotion around Brazil. Now the Barcelona attacker knows that a repeat of those exploits could make him a national legend, and a good start against Croatia could set the bar high for expectations over the rest of the competition.

L. Modrić

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
Some onlookers have suggested that while Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were Real Madrid’s most valuable players on the way to clinching La Decima last season, Modric was their most important. While many talents attempt to fulfil the role of dictating play from the base of midfield, few are able to deliver the goods so consistently and successfully as the ex-Tottenham man. If he can see enough of the ball on the night, then Croatia will fancy their chances of opening the 2014 World Cup with a huge upset.

Editor's Prediction

While no host nation has ever lost their opening fixture at a World Cup, few have found the going easy in their first game. Brazil are clear favourites to win in Sao Paulo, but Croatia are far from the whipping boys of the tournament. Niko Kovac’s side have the benefit of two of the competition’s most accomplished midfielders, but may well find their lack of firepower an issue against a home side that will be out to thrill their public from the word go.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head




Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Brazil BRA
Brazil Brazil
Croatia HRV
Croatia Croatia

Top 3 Predictions

Brazil BRA
2 - 1
Croatia HRV
Brazil BRA
2 - 0
Croatia HRV
Brazil BRA
3 - 1
Croatia HRV