The 2014 World Cup kicks off on Thursday when the host nation Brazil begins their march towards a potential sixth world championship. Up first for A Seleção is Croatia, one of the two teams who will battling with Brazil to advance from Group A.
A Brazil-Croatia primer for new fans
Brazil will expect nothing less than a comfortable win against Croatia in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, which they should be capable of getting.
Imagine the most pressure you've ever been under in your life, whether it's an important exam, a job interview, whatever. Remember that feeling and multiply it by roughly 1,000,000, and you'll start to grasp the situation that Brazil will be playing in during their opening match in São Paulo.
Fortunately for Brazil, they're healthy, allowing Luiz Felipe Scolari to select his preferred lineup. There had been a momentary scare earlier in the week when Neymar appeared to have suffered an ankle injury in training, but the fear was short-lived and he'll be ready to go on Thursday.
Croatia are expected to battle with Mexico for second place in the group, and a place in the Round of 16. The good news is they're expected to lose to Brazil -- as is Mexico -- so if they were able to grab a point, or three, against the host nation, it would be a massive boost towards their hopes of advancing. To do that, they're going to need to put on an impressive defensive performance, something that is not expected to be the Vatreni's strong suit.
Adding to Croatia's woes is that they'll be missing one of their big stars. Striker Mario Mandzukic is suspended for this game, and it's not entirely clear who will start up top in his absence. Don't be stunned if the lineup that Croatia plays in this game looks absolutely nothing like the one they play in their next two games, against Mexico and Cameroon.
World Cup 2014
Match Date/Time: 4 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. local
Venue: Arena Corinthians, São Paulo, Brazil
TV: ESPN (U.S. - English), Univision and ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), ITV1 (U.K.), CBC (Canada), ZDF / HRT 2 (Croatia)
United States announcers: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman
Online: ESPN3 (U.S.), ITV Player (U.K.)