Zee Media Bureau/Dattaraj Thaly
New Delhi: The biggest show on earth has finally arrived in Sao Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil. The Arena de Sao Paulo will witness the opening match between hosts and hot favorites Brazil and Croatia in a Group A kick-off. Before the match, an extravagant opening ceremony, headlined by Jennifer Lopez is expected to take place.
As soon as the action shift to the pitch, Brazil will be looking to stamp their authority on this group by convincingly beating Croatia. Considering their form coming into this match, it would be hard to doubt their intentions. Brazil are on a 9 game winning streak and haven`t lost since August 2013.
Brazil have arrived at the World Cup with a full strength squad that has remained injury-free. The strength in depth of the squad is visible from the options they have on the bench. The Selecao have quality and experienced players at every position.
However, beating the Croatians won`t be an easy task for Scolari`s men. They have the ability to make things difficult and uncomfortable for their opponents. There is no denying the quality in their midfield especially with players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Having lost Mario Mandzukic through suspension is a huge blow for Niko Kovac`s men. Having scored 26 goals for Bayern Munich in all competitions in the 2013-14 season, it would be hard for Croatia to replace one of Europe`s most prolific and hard working forwards.
Brazil and Croatia have only played two matches against one another before this crucial World Cup opener. Their first meeting was at the Stadion Poljud in August 2005. This was an international friendly that ended in a 1-1 draw. Niko Kranjcar scored for Croatia and Ricardinho for Brazil.
The teams met again at Berlin`s Olympic Stadium in June 2006. This time it was in the Group stages of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Kaka`s 44th minute goal was enough for Brazil to seal a 1-0 win over Croatia who were repeatedly denied an equalizer by Dida. The then defending champions were made to sweat for their victory and were not allowed to play freely by the gritty Croatians.
Croatia have never beaten the Selecao. They do have enough in them to trouble this Brazil team but with a strong attacking line-up that will be propelled by a fanatic home crowd, it looks unlikely that the host will let their opponents leave the Arena de Sao Paulo with maximum points.