THE wait is about to end. In a few hours, millions, if not billions, will tune in to the Greatest Show on Earth!
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is set to kick off with home nation Brazil facing Croatia in the first Group A match.
Both teams have looked impressive in friendlies but expectations amd pressure will be high for Brazil.
Here is my take of what to expect in the first game:
Luiz Felipe Scolari won the 2002 World Cup with players like Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Lucio.
This time though, he has selected a good mix of young and experienced players.
For this game, expect Scolari to stick with the winning Confederations Cup first XI.
Julio Cesar should be the first choice goalie with PSG’s Thiago Silva set to captain the Selecao. Thiago will be partnered in central defence with his club’s new signing David Luiz. Just like Cafu and Roberto Carlos in the 2002 World Cup, expect Daniel Alves and Marcelo to bomb forward and provide crosses for the likes of Fred and Hulk.
In central midfield, Paulinho, who was instrumental in Brazil’s Confederations Cup campaign, could lose his place to Manchester City’s Fernandinho.
Fernandinho should serve as the box-to-box midfielder with Ramires playing alongside him.
The front four will be key for Brazil. Chelsea’s Oscar will assume the role as the team’s main playmaker while star man Neymar and burly-but -silky forward Hulk will terrorise Croatia’s wingbacks. Fred will be the targetman for Brazil.
Neymar might be the only illustrious name in the first 11 but as a team, Brazil are solid and a tough nut to crack when they click. Croatia should watch the Confederations Cup final if they want to know how good this team can be!
Under Slaven Bilic, Croatia was a formidable team. Bilic has since left and now the team is being coached by former Croatian player Niko Kovac.
Croatia may be a small country but when it comes to football talent, they have lots of players who are capable of being world beaters! In 1998, they surprised all by finishing third. Can they do it again?
In goal, veteran stopper Stipe Pletikosa will have a busy time thwarting the likes of Neymar, Fred and Hulk. Dejan Lovren, who had a decent campaign with Southampton will be the key centre-back for Croatia and he will most likely be partnered by Vedran Corluka who at age 28, is one of the most experienced players in the side. Captain Darijo Srna and Danijel Pranjic will serve as the wingbacks.
Croatia is most likely to play a 4-3-3 formation just like Brazil. Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric and Brazilian-born Sammir will form the midfield trident. Modric will orchestrate the midfield while Kovacic and Sammir will assume the roles of pivot but expect Kovacic to perform attacking duties as well.
Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic and maybe, Ivica Olic will assume the roles of second attackers. If Olic is not playing, then Ivan Perisic might take his place.
Mario Mandzukic will be important for Croatia and the likes of Luiz and Silva will have to be alert when facing the Bayern Munich forward.
PredictionHome ground advantage will be key for Brazil as they look to win their first game at the Corinthians Arena. Pressure will be high but the Brazilian players will have what it takes to win this game. Croatia is stiff opposition but I don’t see them brushing past the Brazilians. The battle will be in attack and if you ask me, Brazilian “samba” skills will trounce the usually reliable Croatian technical approach. Scoreline? Brazil to nick this first game 3-1.