Our reward for surviving J-Lo and Pitbull? Actual World Cup soccer. Congratulations, folks. Not only is that opening ceremony done, but Brazil 2014 is here, with the tournament favorites kicking off the competition at 4:00 p.m. Eastern against Croatia.
That tournament favorite is Brazil, of course. The reigning Confederations Cup champions will start their tournament amid a sea of trademark yellow at the new Arena Corinthians, hoping to manage building expectations that the 2010 quarterfinalists will win the country’s sixth World Cup.
Here are your starting lineups, talking points, and predictions:
Brazil: César, Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Paulinho, Gustavo; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred
Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaijko;
Brozovic Kovacic, Modric, Rakitic; Perisic Olic, Jelavic
1. Let’s get this started …: The first game of a 64-match, month-long journey is here, and it’s about dang time. For some, the countdown to today’s kickoff began at minute 120 of Spain’s win over the Netherlands four years ago. Even for some more patient souls, the window from the end of the European season to today’s game was too long. Give us back our soccer!
Now we can slam that window shut. We can close all those preview tabs, and yes, we can stop worrying about whether this World Cup will need to be moved.
Soccer, people. Actual soccer, on its biggest stage. The World Cup is minutes away.
2. … and started right: Brazil right back Dani Alves emphasized the need to win decisively. Obviously, in the standings, a 1-0 win with a stoppage time goal will do, but for a team that has accrued such high expectations, a decisive win over a plucky non-contender may delay more pressure. Brazil and its fans will feel a lot better if this is an easy one.
3. South America vs. Europe: Perhaps you’ve heard, but a European team hasn’t won a World Cup on South American soil. You may have also heard that the World Cup hasn’t been waged on the continent since 1978, and statistics being the bummer they are, this factoid looks like more of a “gee, don’t know” that a hard-fast rule. Why can’t evidence just stay of this?
Regardless, the hypothesis is still out there: European teams won’t be strong in Brazil. Croatia’s matchup against a favorite is unlikely to prove the case either way, but if the ball movement is there, players seem as quick as normal, and there’s not major drop off in the second half, we’ll know a little more about the European hypothesis (though only a little).
Expectation: Brazil wins easily
One blogger’s prediction: Expectations are met