Thursday, June 12, 2014

The difficult opening match

Opening matches are always difficult, and tomorrow all the pressure will be on Brazil, who by many are expected to take the first step of seven matches that will give them their sixth World Cup title, and more seriously, to leave the place as the only nation that has never won it at home.
That first step is always difficult, and the favourites have often had it notoriously difficult in opening matches; just think Argentina-Belgium in 1982, Bulgaria-Italy in 1986, Argentina-Cameroon in 1990,  France-Senegal in 2002...
Brazil tomorrow are enormous favourites against Croatia, who most people who do not know much about football (but tomorrow many will be watching), would quickly discount as just a minor hurdle in Brazil's quest.
But be careful! I do not deny that Brazil are favourites. But Croatia will be no walkover. A solid side that made it to the semifinals of 1998, they nevertheless qualified with some difficulty. Still, notably their midfield would be the envy of many teams: Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic (who today was linked with an imminent transfer to FC Barcelona) are without doubt two of the best in the world in their position. Experienced veterans led by Darijo Srna line up a defense of physically strong players, while they have some known guys up front with Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic (who will nevertheless not play due to suspension).
The Croatians know that they are underdogs, but I think they are quite comfortable with that role. They will not let themselves be intimidated and will surely do their best to take their own first step in the quest for the title.
Let the games begin!

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