So, here we are. Four years on from South Africa the greatest sporting tournament in the world returns to our screens as the World Cup takes centre stage. After being revealed that Brazil, the adopted home of Football, were to stage the competition seven years ago, a lot of finance has gone into constructing or redeveloping twelve iconic stadiums and new transportation systems such as Airports and roads. This has had its fair share of controversy in the past few years with public strikes, protests and workers losing their lives for this magnificent event to take place. As the football edges ever closer, the excitement in the air of the world has only risen. Brazilians are hoping to bring the samba party to football and they are sure to put on a spectacular show which kicks off this evening at 9:00pm when the hosts Brazil take on Croatia in their Group A match.
So what do I think about Brazil’s chances? Well they will certainly have a lot of pressure put on them for three reasons. Firstly, they are hosting the competition. They will want to impress and stay in their home World Cup for as long as possible. Secondly, the fans no, the whole country will be expecting a performance by the Samba Boys. They very much are used to seeing Brazil winning the World Cup as they have won it the most times (5 in total). Finally, the last time the World Cup was held in Brazil in 1950, the hosts lost agonisingly to Uruguay in the final, causing public unrest. The players and fans will want to make that right by avenging that defeat with triumph this time around.
This Brazil team isn’t the greatest Brazil team of all time. For me, looking back at videos I would have to say the team of 1970 were the best. I remember that one goal, where Pele, the best player to ever grace the game, slid the ball through for Captain Carlos Alberto to fire the ball into the far corner. That for me is the best goal I have ever seen, scored by the best team. This team for me is followed by the 1978 team that played in Argentina. Socrates, Zico and co. They had skill, flair and were just a joy to watch. They however lost to Italy. A game Zico recalls as the day “Football died.” Now, I think this class of 2014 Brazil are very reminiscent of the one of France 98, and Korea of 2002. They may not have the brilliance of Ronaldo or the skill of Ronaldinho. But they have arguably the best centre back in the world in Thiago Silva and a young forward who has the country resting on his shoulders, Neymar. If Neymar and the others perform to their highest ability, I can see them making the final. However, I predict more heartbreak for Brazilians as I can’t see past Argentina lifting the trophy.
Brazil’s coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has called it “Our World Cup” and that “Brazil’s time is now.” He believes that Brazil have what it takes to win the competition in their native country. Tonight, they play in Sao Paulo, in a stadium not properly tested by approved by FIFA. They take on Croatia. A European country that only seven years ago knocked England out of Euro 2008 qualifying.
Croatia are managed by Nico Kovac, a young coach who wants to implement his own attacking philosophy on the team. He took charge of the national side just before the play off with Iceland. In those playoff games, they were far from convincing. However, reading Kovac’s interview in The Guardian this morning, Croatians should be optimistic about their new coach and what he attends to do with how they play the game. Kovac sounds technical, saying he “believes in science.” He believes that technology should be used to help a player improve their weakened parts of their game. He sets his players individual training regimes to work on. He has stated he will not “park the bus” tonight and that they will go into the game with an attacking mentality and try and be the party poopers.
So, what’s going to be the outcome of tonight? Personally, I expect a cagey opening quarter of the game. Brazil will feel the pressure of the fans and country watching. Croatia will start positively, but will fade as the game goes on. I think gaps will appear in the Croatian back line and Brazil will get a couple of goals, maybe Neymar will introduce himself on the world stage with a man of the match performance. Croatia without Mandzuckic is like Portugal without Ronaldo or England without Rooney. So I’m going to go 2-0 to Brazil. And when that final whistle goes, the World Cup will have definitely begun.