Teams: Croatia v. Brazil
Where: Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, which most importantly is in BRAZIL, where the BRAZILIAN TEAM will be playing in front of a crowd of adoring, angry, loving, and very rambunctious BRAZILIAN SOCCER FANS. Arena Corinthians is the only World Cup stadium to be explicitly mentioned in an episode of the Simpsons, and Brazilian legend Rivellino scored the first goal there. (P.S. Rivellino looks a lot like everyone's 1975 Dad, making him very, very important for more than just soccer reasons.)
What I'm watching Brazil for: Taking the field and not shattering under the pressure, mostly. After that five minutes and some jittery moments against a Croatian team bent on playing defense and counter-attacking, you'll be watching for the usual backheel-passing, bike-kicking, brilliant through-balling Brazilian-ness at work. Sometimes it's not even about whether they score, but how cool the attempt looked, and that's why even the biggest soccer naif can boggle at their naked skill and casual daring. Bonus: they have a player named "Fred," which sounds hilarious in any language's goal calls.
What I'm watching Croatia for: Survival. Playing without their starting striker, Croatia will be stressed at every single position to keep up with Brazil and their ability to bring everyone save the goalie into the offensive game plan. Croatia is a very good soccer team, and their reward in FIFA's universe is to be fed one leg at a time into the hungry maw of Brazil as the first meal for an astonishingly talented home team. Yes, George R.R. Martin would make a fantastic FIFA President, as he already understands FIFA's basic organizational M.O. and ethos.
World Cup 2014
World Cup 2014
Intangibles: The real possibility Croatia could counter, score, and knock Brazil on its heels early; the aforementioned jitters in front of a frothing home crowd; Croatia gaining extra power from the snazzy checkerboard pattern on its World Cup kits; everyone being late for the game due to strikes.
Announcers: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman. This bar is open and it is only serving top shelf to the first wave of customers.
Watchability: 9/10, will watch if we have to stream it on our phone while driving back home from the airport. (don't do this) (even if you're thinking seriously about doing this) Brazil's an automatic 6/10 by themselves, add the cantankerous and game Croatians for another point, and finally tack on two more points for being the champagne cork rocketing off the face of the soccer-giddy world.