Match number: 1
Nicknames: A Seleção “The Selection” (Brazil), Vatreni “The Blazers” (Croatia)
Coaches: Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazil), Niko Kovač (Croatia)
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Oscar (Brazil), Luka Modrić, Darijo Srna, Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)
Best ever FIFA World Cup™ finishes: Brazil has won a record five titles: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Croatia came in third in 1998.
Rivalry history: The two teams have played twice. The first meeting came in a 2005 friendly that ended in a 1-1 draw. More recently they played at 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ where Brazil won 1-0 in the group stage thanks to a goal from Kaka.
What to expect: Brazilians have been eagerly anticipating this match for six and a half years, ever since they were awarded the rights to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. Players such as renowned right back Dani Alves know the importance of starting the tournament out on a firm foot, going so far as to say that the opening match against Croatia is rivaled only by the final in terms of its weight.
Perhaps the Selecao was feeling the pressure when they looked listless in only defeating Serbia 1-0 in their final tournament tune up. Or maybe they were saving their best for when the lights shine brightest.
With millions expected to sing in one voice behind Brazil, Croatia faces a challenging task. Eduardo and Sammir, two men born in the country but representing the Vatreni, surely know what to expect, but do they have the quality to delver and withstand the pressure?
The Croatians will be without their targetman Mario Mandžukić, who is suspended due to a red card he picked up in the UEFA playoff qualifier against Iceland. They will need to be brave to withstand the attacking prowess of Brazil while still trying to pose an offensive threat of their own.
Nerves will be on full display. We think Brazil, especially Neymar, rises to the occasion and gets the job done, but we know that no matter the result, this will be a historic encounter.
The ball: Thursday’s contest will be played with the adidas Brazuca, the official match ball of the tournament, with the team names, date, stadium and group printed on the side.
You can find the same ball exclusively in our store.
The hosts will wear their famed yellow home jersey, while the Vatreni will also wear their class home red and white checkered kit.
We’ve been counting down the hours, days, months and years until 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. It’s upon us now. Make sure you are ready.