The 2014 World Cup will kick off when host country Brazil take on Croatia in a Group A matchup.
If you recall, we found out way back in December that these two countries would participate in the epic tournament's first match:
Group A also includes Cameroon and Mexico. While Brazil is the favorite of the bunch, it will likely come down to the head-to-head play of the other three teams to determine which other team advances.
The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, so there is a lot to look out for during the 32-team tournament. Before we look ahead to the latter stages of the tournament, let's take a look at the betting line and some predictions for the 2014 World Cup opener between Brazil and Croatia.
The betting line for this World Cup opener is courtesy of Odds Shark on June 9.
|Best Croatia Line||+1150|
|Best Brazil Line||-303|
|Best Draw Line||+475|
OddsShark.com on June 9
Croatia Will Score First
There's really only one way to defeat the hosts of the World Cup at home: Score first.
The crowd is going to be wild for the World Cup opener. The thousands of fans in attendance will be cheering for Brazil, and the stadium will be absurdly loud. So loud, in fact, that it will probably be difficult for team managers to relay information to players.
The one way to silence a home crowd is to score first, and Croatia know that is the best course of action against a very, very strong Brazil team.
Scoring first is no easy task—actually, scoring against Brazil isn't easy in general—but doing so will give Croatia the opportunity to get out to an early lead. That early lead is valuable, especially considering that beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri believes Croatia lack strength in depth:
Not bad the Croatia XI. But they have no defense and no bench. Enough to go through group stage and then being squeezed by Spain— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) May 14, 2014
With poor defense and a lack of depth, Croatia are underdogs against Brazil. This poor defense will need to work hard to keep Brazil in check. Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense, however, so at least one early goal from Croatia will swing momentum their way.
Stipe Pletikosa Will Hold Brazil to 3 Goals or Fewer
Likely Croatia's goalkeeper for this match, Stipe Pletikosa will be in for a rough 90 minutes against a Brazil team that know how to find the back of the net.
Pletikosa will need to be fantastic in net. Brazil are loaded with strikers who know how to score goals. The key to defeating Brazil is to simply keep them in check. Completely stopping them is nearly impossible.
Brazil just barely defeated Croatia in the 2006 World Cup, and that was because Kaka beat Pletikosa with a great finish.
Pletikosa was great in that match, and eight years later, he'll need to do the same. The goalkeeper isn't scared of the challenge, reports Xinhua, via India.com: "If I ever had feared any forwards that fear disappeared in the match against Brazil at the 2006 World Cup when I had against me players like Ronaldo, Kaka, Adriano and Ronaldinho."
The 35-year-old will hold Brazil to three goals or fewer.
Brazil Will Still Win
Despite an opening goal by Croatia and a solid overall effort from Pletikosa, Brazil are simply too talented to drop the World Cup opener on their home turf.
Who wins the opener?
Neymar and Co. will impose their will on the Croatian defense. Even if Brazil are held to three goals or fewer, you can rest assured that there is enough attacking power to secure the victory.
When one striker attracts attention from defenders, somebody else will sneak behind the rest of the defense and get a good look at the net. Having so many talented strikers on the same attack is a scary thought for the opposition.
Croatia will give Brazil a run for their money in the World Cup opener, but it will take a miraculous performance by the underdogs to steal this game.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Croatia 1