Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 5 March 2015

World Cup 2014 opening game: Brazil v Croatia match preview

Confederations Cup win showed Scolari’s side knows how to attack, but what can we expect from an opening game?

Graffiti in Sao Paulo, Brazil.   (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Graffiti in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mexican soccer fan, Herwin Gomez, from Mexico, wears a Lucha libre mask as he arrives at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport for the World Cup tournament on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JUNE 11: FIFA World Cup 2014 merchandise is seen on display at a football store on June 11, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. The World Cup 2014 in Brazil will begin on June 12th with the first match between Brazil and Croatia. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Former Brazilian football star Ronaldo Nazario speaks during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Presenter Fernanda Lima speaks during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expo Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mirabror Zufarovich Usmanov (R) of Uzbekistan receives the FIFA Order of Merit from FIFA President Joseph Blatter during the opening ceremony of the 64th FIFA Congress at the Expocenter Transamerica on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Locals pass a mural of the World Cup at Serviluz favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A young goalkeeper is beaten by a shot during a practice match at Serviluz favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Children enjoy a game of football at the Serviluz Favela on June 10, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: A worker stands by anti-World Cup graffiti on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: People shop for Brazilian soccer memorabilia on June 10, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The opening match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is June 12 in Sao Paulo when Brazil takes on Croatia. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Everton Manager, Roberto Martinez and former Netherlands striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy speak as they watch the action during the Netherlands training session at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil held at the Estadio Jose Bastos Padilha Gavea on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
TERESOPOLIS, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Neymar in action during 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, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: People wave Spanish flags during a Spain training session at the Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju on June 10, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Military Police officers stand guard outside Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju prior to a Spain training session on June 10, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Alex Palacios (L) and Christian Palacios in town to root for the Ecuadorian soccer team play with a soccer ball among large inflatable ones that are part of a protest on Copacabana beach against what the Brazilian government spent on building stadiums for the 2014 World Cup and to call for more money to be spent on better education, health and public services on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 10: Mark Stroh from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shows his support for the American soccer team as he arrives to pick up friends at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao International Airport for the start of the World Cup soccer tournament on June 10, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazil fan poses for a photo near the Christ Redeemer on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Firefighters and soldiers conduct a chemical contamination simulated training exercise, in preparation for the FIFA soccer World Cup, in front of the National Stadium, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 9, 2014. The international soccer tournament is set to begin in just a few days, with Brazil and Croatia competing in the opening match on June 12. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Mateus da Silva, 12, poses for a photo after playing soccer at a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 9, 2014. The 2014 Word Cup soccer tournament is set to begin in just a few days, with Brazil and Croatia playing in the opening match on June 12. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Argentina's national soccer team T-shirts hang for sale outside the Argentine Soccer Association before the team heads the airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, June 9, 2014. Argentina's team is leaving Monday to compete in the Brazil's 2014 soccer Word Cup. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A general view of the Christ the Redeemer statue prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists pose for photos in front Christ the Redeemer statue prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists in front of the Christ Redeemer Statue are seen on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazil fan is seen enjoying the sights on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People walk past a soccer themed mural as the host country shows its love of soccer on the walls of the city on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A general view of a sandcastle model of the Fuleco, the FIFA 2014 World Cup mascot with a Brazilian flag on the Copacabana Beach as the sun rises prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, looks at the Christ the Redeemer statue of Jesus Christ as he visits while waiting for the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, shows spirit for his home country's soccer team while waiting for the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Soccer fan, Alfredo Correa Riveros, from Columbia, takes in a view of the city as he awaits the start of the World Cup on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: World Cup themed 'can coolers' are seen on Copacabana beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A sandcastle of Neymar of Brazil and Lionel Messi of Argentina on Copacabana beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tourists take photos of the view by the Christ Redeemer Statue on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: England fans pose outside the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel, in the Sao Conrado district of the city, is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Football fans pose with Chelsea shirts outside the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel in the Sao Conrado district is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: A Brazilian Navy ship patrols the waters close to the Royal Tulip Hotel on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The hotel in the Sao Conrado district is the base for the England football team during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images)
MAUA, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: (L-R) DFB President Wolfgang Nierbach, Reinhold Huber of Lufthansa and Dr Reinhard Rauball, DFL League President play with kids during a visit of the DFB delegation at Centro Comunitario Casa Mateus on June 09, 2014 in Maua, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: Tattoos of the UEFA Champions League and the World Cup trophies are seen on Sergio Ramos of Spain during a Spain training session at the Centro de Entrenamiento do Caju on June 9, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: World Cup souvenirs are displayed for sale in a store on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People play with a soccer ball on Ipanema beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 09: People play a game of altinha, a spin-off of soccer, on Ipanema Beach on June 9, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A replica of the World Cup trophy is seen on a sand sculpture as a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities moves past on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players and other celebrities move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A dog wearing a halter in the color of the Brazilian flag is seen as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People watch as large puppets in the likeness of soccer players move past during a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Cintya Mello laughs as she stands among large puppets in the likeness of soccer players during a break in a campaign against hepatitis parade featuring puppets of soccer stars and other celebrities on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Thai youths fight for the ball with elephants during a soccer match between men and elephants to celebrate the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil organized by Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand Monday, June 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
A Thai mahout guides his elephant to entertain school children during the break at a soccer match between men and elephants to celebrate the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil organized by Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand Monday, June 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
A diver wearing a South Korean soccer fan uniform performs with sardines during an event to promote the upcoming 2014 Brazil World Cup, at the COEX Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 9, 2014. South Korea will face Russia, Belgium and Algeria in 2014 Brazil World Cup. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A diver wearing a South Korean soccer fan uniform performs with sardines during an event to promote the upcoming 2014 Brazil World Cup, at the COEX Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 9, 2014. South Korea will face Russia, Belgium and Algeria in 2014 Brazil World Cup. The writing on the banner reads " We hope for the success of the national soccer team." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - JUNE 09: South Korean divers clad in soccer uniform swim with fishes for South Korean team's success in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at the Coex Aquarium on June 9, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil begins on June 12, 2014. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Fans attempt to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals through a fence around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A parishioner launches a firework from the roof during Festa Junina celebrations at the Paroquia Divino Espirito Santo church located near Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Today was the final Sunday before Itaquerao hosts the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A fan attempts to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals through a fence around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: People paint a Brazilian flag on the streets of a 'favela' called Santa Marta as they show their spirit for their home soccer team on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A woman watches from her window as a young man paints a World Cup mural on the street and the wall of her apartment in a 'favela' called Santa Marta as they prepare for the start of World Cup play on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil continues to prepare to host the World Cup which starts on June 12th and runs through July 13th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A Brazil fans poses outside of opening ceremony rehearsals around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Fans attempt to catch a peek of opening ceremony rehearsals around Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Brazil fans cheer while gathered outside Itaquerao stadium, also known as Arena de Sao Paulo and Arena Corinthians, on June 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hundreds of fans turned up at the stadium to take a peek on the final Sunday before the opening of the 2014 FIFA World Cup match on June 12 between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other nation. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A young man practices Capoeira on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A young boy juggles a football on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A couple takes a selfie photo on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Girls take a selfie photo on Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Professionals of media work during the match between Corinthians U20 v Corinthians U17 as part of the last technical test event on June 08, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo will be hosting FIFA 2014 World Cup inaugural match on June 12. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Professionals of media work during the match between Corinthians U20 v Corinthians U17 as part of the last technical test event on June 08, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo will be hosting FIFA 2014 World Cup inaugural match on June 12. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A Brazilian flag waves on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: A man attempts to walk a tightrope next to Ipanema beach on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: An acrobat practices a backflip on Ipanema Beach as the 2014 FIFA World Cup nears on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SOROCABA, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: Hotaru Yamaguchi of Japan poses with children as the team pose for a group photo with children from the local community during a Japan training session held at Walter Riberio Stadium on June 8, 2014 in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 08: In this handout image supplied by the FA, (L-R) Gary Cahill, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart, Phil Jagielka and James Milner of England take part in a recovery session at the Golden Tulip Hotel on June 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

The most popular Brazilian team of the last 40 years was the 1982 Selecao of Socrates, Zico and Falcao. However, Tele Santana’s team did not reach the final. A dozen years later Brazil won the trophy on penalties after a sterile goalless draw.

Brazil coaches have subsequently been inclined more to the functional than the spectacular, but they have still incorporated individual talents so lavish that an impressive highlights reel can at least be guaranteed.

Luiz Felipe Scolari is no different. His 2002 winning team was more entertaining than expected given his club background at Palmeiras where he encouraged the art of tactical fouls. The current incarnation was encouragingly attack-minded in lifting the Confederations Cup last year.

In truth, a Brazil team playing at home have to go on the offensive, especially when an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the whole Fifa shebang threatens to explode at any moment. Nevertheless, results matter as well as style and Scolari will ensure his side retains a defensive rigour.

Nominally playing 4-2-3-1, Brazil will usually look more like 2-3-2-3 with the full-backs pushing on and one of the wide players, usually Neymar, coming inside. Behind him Oscar, with his passing and movement, is likely to be as influential as Neymar, while Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho guard the defence.

This is, in fact, the XI that defeated Spain 3-0 to win the Confederations Cup last June, which shows how well-honed Scolari’s team should now be. That win was part of a run of 15 victories in 16 matches since being held  2-2 by England in the Maracana last summer.

The one exception was a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in Basel in August. While much of the opposition has been moderate, this run does include victories against half-a-dozen major opponents.

Brazil should be confident and can be expected to start fast, pressing Croatia and looking for an early breakthrough to calm nerves and intimidate the Croatians. For their part Croatia should look to counter-attack into the space behind Brazil’s adventurous full-backs, and try to quieten the crowd. Easier said than done, of course.

What can we expect from an opening game?

Probably not much, but you never know. The first World Cup started with two matches kicking off simultaneously, France’s Lucien Laurent scoring the first goal in a 4-1 win over Mexico. The next in 1934, began with an eight-match programme.

By 1938 there was an “opening game”, Switzerland v Germany, an odd choice since neither were hosts or holders. It was a 1-1 draw setting something of a trend for stalemates that reached a nadir between 1966 and 1978.  Four successive tournaments were launched with goalless draws, the sequence kicked off by England and Uruguay at Wembley.

More recently, they have been worth watching. Scotland gave Brazil a decent game in Paris in 1998 before losing 2-1, holders France were stunned by debutants Senegal in Seoul in 2002, and Germany beat Costa Rica  4-2 in Munich four years later. By then hosts were again kicking off the tournament rather than the holders, and the 2010 finals started with a lively 1-1 draw between South Africa and Mexico.

Perhaps the most dramatic start was in 1990 when rugged newcomers Cameroon shocked holders Argentina 1-0 despite being reduced to nine men. Argentina still reached the final.

How important is a team’s start?

Very important. There have been 10 World Cups in which the top two in a four-team group have progressed to the second stage without play-offs being involved (1962-1982 & 1998 onwards). Eighty per cent of teams winning that first game have qualified (68 out of 85), 85 per cent of teams losing that first game have not. Settle for a draw? Taking a point gives a team a 56 per cent chance of progress. Four years ago, however, Spain lost their opening game to Switzerland 1-0, but won the tournament while the Swiss went out at the group stage.

Is Brazil ready enough?

The sight of Sao Paulo’s stadium still undergoing safety tests is worrying. The appetite is whetted, anticipation is bubbling, but at the back of the mind there is concern. Eight workers have already died in stadia construction accidents. Whoever wins, whatever the football is like, it is to be fervently hoped there are no more deaths in Brazil directly related to the World Cup.

More World Cup 2014 coverage

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre