Does Croatia Stand a Chance Against Brazil in World Cup Opener?
I cannot imagine that Croatia was all too excited when they found out that their first match would be against 2014 World Cup hosts and tournament favorites Brazil! While Croatia is a solid team that qualified out of a tricky European competition, Brazil is a team on a whole other stratosphere, and will be playing to the delight of their home fans, who are sure to be loud and supportive of their national squad. The Croatians probably feel a bit like cattle headed to the slaughter…
Brazil has a team worthy of lifting the World Cup, and they probably will win it all. They have a solid veteran presence in their defense with the likes of Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Maxwell, and Maicon. Going forward they have an exciting bunch of youngsters who are thriving at their respective clubs like Oscar, David Luiz, and Paulinho. In the forward positions they have the future superstar of Brazilian soccer, Neymar, whose nifty foot skills and powerful shot can terrorize defenders and goalies. But just in case his youth holds him back, experienced goal-scorers like Hulk and Fred will surely pick up the slack. In essence, this is a nearly flawless squad playing on historically the best team in global soccer, and who are gifted the opportunity of competing in their home country.
So how could Croatia even hope for success in this game? Well, they can have hope and belief in the knowledge that this isn’t a do-or-die match. The two remaining teams in their group are Mexico and Cameroon, and while those names seem to match up evenly against a team like Croatia, these are national teams in shambles. Mexico barely qualified for the World Cup and is coming off of two losses in warm-up friendly matches. Meanwhile, Cameroon’s players refused to get on the team plane the other day because they haven’t agreed to the bonus money paid by their federation. Both of these teams have potential implosion written all over them. Therefore, Croatia benefit by being a team that currently has their focus together. What this means is that they don’t need a result in the first game. Their best move may be to defend, limit the goal differential, and focus on the two games against Mexico and Cameroon.
But on the field they actually harbor a respectable team. Their strength lies in the midfield, where the creative forces of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will combine to help create chances. In attack they have a physically imposing striker, Mario Mandzukic. Additionally they have solid veterans Ivica Olic and Eduardo. Eduardo is particularly interesting because he is Brazilian by birth. He moved to Croatia as a teenager to play for Dinamo Zagreb and eventually earned Croatian citizenship. It will be a strange homecoming for the striker should he see playing time!
With several veteran defenders at the back like Darijo Srna, Croatia have a very respectable team that should be able to withstand the Brazilian assault for a good bit of this game. Therefore, the side certainly does have a chance to make a bold statement in the World Cup’s first game!
Brazil will be feeling the nerves, and it will be key for Croatia to not allow an early goal. If they can suck the life out of the game and perhaps notch a goal or two themselves, it will be game on! But one thing that does help the Croatians is that to start such a tournament against the contender and host will immediately put them to the test. There will be no relaxing group stage; instead Croatia faces an uphill battle from the start. Perhaps this game will help the side develop some grit and help them to make a solid 2014 World Cup run!