Imagine being responsible for making 65,000 screaming fans suddenly go quiet.
It would be a tremendous feeling and an incredible feat for Croatia if the country can score first in the 2014 World Cup against host Brazil.
Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo hosts the tournament opener, and the Brazilians will be huge favorites (currently 11-1 according to Odds Shark) against their Group A challengers.
“If you watched the Belmont Stakes Saturday, you saw more than 100,000 cheering fans all go silent when California Chrome lost and the same deflating atmosphere could prevail if the Croatians steal a lead,” said Jack Randall, in an interview Monday from Odds Shark.
With all the pressure on favored Brazil (they are prohibitive 2-7 chalk), will they be able to handle it?
The key to the Croatians stealing a point will be solid midfield play, which they should get as it is the strength of the squad. Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who may be one of them most underrated midfielders in the world, leads the team.
He and Ivan Rakitic form a stellar duo in the midfield, and they can prevent Brazil from dominating the time of possession.
Another one of the reasons Croatia is the big World Cup betting underdog in this match is because it will be without its main striker in Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic. He is out because of a red card he received during the last qualifying match against Iceland.
Without its main striker, Croatia will be forced to modify its game plan, playing more of a defensive match and looking to score off the counterattack. With the pressure on the Brazilians, they will push forward and give the Croatians opportunities for the counterattack.
Fred, Neymar, Hulk are the three guys up front that the Croatian defense must key on. Brazil is a stacked squad that enjoys the benefit of a solid midfield and great defense as well.
Veteran Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and the defense have a tall task in this match, but they will be helped by the midfield, which will be dropping back in this match.
The Croatians know they are big underdogs in this match, but they will not fall apart, being a veteran-laden squad that has nearly 1,000 caps between all the players.
They will defend and take chances to deflate the boisterous crowd in the first match of the tournament. If they succeed and manage a draw, they will create the first shock wave in Brazil and reward underdog bettors with a 4-1 payout.
Prediction: 1-1 draw