World Cup 2014: TV Schedule, Live Stream and Prediction for Day 1

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

A man dressed in an outfit with Brazilian flags motifs stands on downtown corner in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The 2014 World Cup is set to begin Thursday, with Brazil and Croatia competing in the opening match in Sao Paulo. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

The 2014 World Cup is finally here, and after a gruelling four-year wait, sports fans will get to see the world's top stars in action on the biggest stage.

Brazil and Croatia will take to the pitch following the opening ceremony, and the hosts are keen to impress a vocal home crowd desperate for World Cup glory.

Their opponents put together excellent showings against the eventual finalists of Euro 2012—Spain and Italy—in the group stages of that tournament, and they have the quality to make life miserable for any opponent, so fans can expect the 2014 World Cup to start off with a bang.

Date: Thursday, June 12

Time: 9 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET

Venue: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo

TV guide and live stream: The match will be broadcast on ITV (for UK viewers), ESPN and Univision (for U.S. viewers), with mobile coverage available via the ITV Mobile app and ESPN Wireless.

Enormous Pressure on the Hosts

No team will be more anxious to start their tournament with a strong performance than hosts Brazil. Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad haven't been tested in an official match since last year's Confederations Cup, and for all of their brilliance in preparation of this tournament, questions remain.

The last time the Brazilians hosted the tournament was in 1950, losing the final to Uruguay 2-1. That loss is still one of the darkest pages in Brazilian football's history books, and it's one fans are looking to finally overcome in 2014.

The pressure the hosts are facing is enormous, both on and off the pitch. Brazil as a nation are plagued by social unrest, and Grantland's Brian Phillips wrote a truly great piece on the link between football and the issues the country faces. In that piece, he explained what some people fear could happen if Brazil lose early:

"The 2014 World Cup team and the street protests are two electrons orbiting within the same unstable atom. Politicians are afraid that if Brazil loses early in the tournament, the protests will spill out of control. I mean, think about that."

Via Selecao Brasileira, the players know it too. Striker Fred told the media the team simply can't afford to fail:

Tactical Battles

Built around one of world's best defensive duos in Thiago Silva and David Luiz, Brazil are far from the one-man show casual fans believe them to be. Yes, Neymar is a mercurial talent capable of deciding a match on his own, but the Brazilians have plenty more weapons to work with.

Forwards Hulk and Fred don't look (or play) like traditional wingers, but they understand Scolari's system based on constant movement better than anyone. The group of midfielders is balanced and not afraid to use brute force when needed, something the team has lacked in previous tournaments.

TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Neymar (R) and goalkeeper Jefferson take part in a training session of the Brazilian national football team at the squad's Granja Comary training complex, on June 10, 2014 in Teresopolis, 90 km from downtown Rio de Janeiro,
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The challenge of the Croatians shouldn't be taken lightly, however. In Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, the Europeans have three world-class players on their own. Unfortunately, Mandzukic is suspended for this encounter.

Their support isn't bad either. Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic are strong, versatile midfielders, and Darijo Srna leads an underrated defensive unit boasting the likes of Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka.

Croatia went toe-to-toe with tournament dark horses Belgium for much of the qualifying campaign and nearly defeated the Red Devils in Brussels, but an upset loss at the hands of Scotland derailed their campaign.

ZAGREB, CROATIA - NOVEMBER 19:  Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric (L-R) of Croatia celebrate after the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier play-off second leg match between Croatia and Iceland at Maksimir Stadium on November 19, 2013 in Zagreb, Croa
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The team plays best when they can hold on to the ball for large spells of the match and Modric has space to distribute the ball. But as we saw during Euro 2012, the counter-attack is a weapon they can use with deadly precision.

Against Spain and Italy, teams with more individual quality, the Croatians elevated their game to new heights, and they came within minutes of eliminating the eventual champions in the final group-stage match.

The Brazilians have the talent and momentum to dispatch of the Croatians, but the enormous pressure the team faces means it won't be easy. A strong start to the match will go a long way in giving the hosts the confidence they need to overcome a strong Croatian side, and it can only help convince the crowds the team is the real deal.

Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Croatia


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