SAO PAULO (SportingAlert.com) — Host nation Brazil will kick-start the 2014 Fifa World Cup tournament with the opening game in Group A against Croatia at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
The clash will be only the third meeting between the two sides and the second in World Cup fixture, following their previous meetings in 2005 and at the 2006 World Cup.
They played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly international in 2005, while Brazil came away with a 1-0 victory in the group stages as well when they last met at Germany 2006 in Berlin.
All eyes will be on the nation’s superstar Neymar, who has been passed fit to start, following an injury scare in practice this week.
The pressure is mounting on Brazil to succeed in their own back-yard, with Neymar expected to carry a lot of the burden.
Still, even with such an enormous amount of pressure on his shoulder, the Barcelona forward remains grounded.
Neymar admits that he is feeling a little nervous for the start of the tournament, but added that he cannot wait to get the show on the road.
“We hope that this last day goes by very quickly,” Neymar said. “I am anxious of course but also I’m extremely happy being where I am today because many people would like to be here.
“I really hope I can help my team in the best possible way to fulfil the dream of the players, and Brazilians, which is to win the World Cup.”
Brazil dominated the Confederations Cup in 2013 on home soil, after beating Spain 3-0 in the final, and Neymar believes the Seleção have a very good chance of winning another title at home.
“We have a great chance to become world champions,” he said.
The first task now is to get past Croatia, a team not lacking in talents and one many are even backing to come away with a point against the hosts and title favourites.
With the likes of Nikica Jelavic, Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic, among others in the squad, Croatia are not short on talents and defender and skipper Darijo Srna warns that they plan on battling with the Brazilians in the opener.
Srna also said the team is prepared to give it 100-percent in every game.
“I can’t promise to win the World Cup or to progress out of the group. I can’t promise to beat Brazil but it is a promise that we will give our all, the last atom of strength,” Srna warned.
Head coach Niko Kovac added: “Let’s be realistic, Brazil are the hosts and a great favourite.
“We come to play the best we can, leave the right impression and show heart on the field.
“The players are eager for this match, the training is going strong and sharp. They are all professionals and they want to play and impose themselves.
“I am optimistic we’re not going to Sao Paulo raise the white flag.”
Mandzukic will miss the opening match for the Vatreni against Brazil because of suspension.