World Cup 2014 Opening Match: Early Prediction for Brazil vs. Croatia

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World Cup 2014 Opening Match: Early Prediction for Brazil vs. Croatia
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The World Cup draw was enough to get fans excited about the international event, but the prestigious tournament does not truly get started until Brazil steps onto the pitch against Croatia.

In the opening match, the host country will face a European opponent that struggled throughout qualifying and were fortunate to get a bid to the finals. Croatia finished second behind Belgium in their group before defeating Iceland 2-0 on aggregate score in the UEFA playoff.

While Brazil did not have to qualify, they have fared extremely well lately and earned a lot of respect with a win at the Confederations Cup.

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Still, only six spots separate these teams in the FIFA World Rankings, and the competitive nature is certain to provide fans with an excellent showing on Day 1 of the World Cup.

When: June 12 at 4 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. GMT

Where: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazil Player to Watch: Neymar

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Over the past year, Neymar has burst onto the international stage as one of the best young players in the world. After putting together highlight-reel plays at Santos FC, he transferred to Barcelona and already has four goals and eight assists in 13 La Liga matches.

With Lionel Messi currently on the sidelines, Neymar has become a go-to player in an already loaded offense, and he is proving that he can create opportunities for himself and others as well as anyone in the world.

The scary thing is that at 21 years old, he can only get better heading into the World Cup.

He should be a star for Brazil in front of the home crowds, and it would not be surprising to see him become one of the best players in this tournament.  

Croatia Player to Watch: Mario Mandzukic

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When you are the leading scorer on one of the best clubs in the world, you are doing something right.

Mario Mandzukic has scored eight goals for Bayern Munich, who are the reigning European champions, and they are well on their way toward another title in 2014. Due to various injuries, the pressure has now grown for Mandzukic to step up his performance, and he has answered every call.

The Croatian forward is just hitting his stride, and he has the ability to carry Croatia to a few wins at the World Cup. 

Top Storyline: Can Anyone Stop Brazil's Attack?

While Brazil's first team is incredibly young compared to other top squads, this is one of the most dynamic units in the world.

Neymar, Oscar, Paulinho, Fred and others are capable of scoring at virtually any moment of the match. They can rip a shot on target from outside the box, or they can make a key pass to an open teammate.

This skill was on display throughout the Confederations Cup, but the question is whether Brazil can keep this up in a bigger tournament like the World Cup. The good news is that few teams in Group A will be able to slow them down.

Still, the squad must show consistency throughout the tournament in order to truly be a top contender for a title.

Prediction: Brazil 3, Croatia 1

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Croatia has enough talent to put up a fight in this match, but Brazil will simply have too much excitement in this opening match in Sao Paulo. 

The stars are certain to be aggressive, looking for an early goal that will get the crowd on their feet. Once that happens, it will be tough to slow down the attack.

While Croatia has a chance to advance to the knockout stage with strong performances against Mexico and Cameroon, it will be too difficult to match Brazil in this opening contest.

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