Today is the first day of the 2014 World Cup! This edition of the world’s most beloved sporting event starts with a bang, as two excellent footballing nations square off. Croatia, despite its population of only about five million, took third in the 1998 World Cup in France and regularly supplies players to the world’s top teams, such as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Brazil really needs no introduction; the nation that has won more World Cups (five) than any other is famous for the quality of its futebol even outside soccer circles.
Here’s why this should be a good matchup: Croatia will be extraordinarily attacking, considering they’re playing the firepower-laden Brazil in São Paulo. They’ve got strikers in three positions (Jelavic up top and Olic/Eduardo and Perisic on the wings) and all three midfielders are forward-thinking, especially Kovacic and Madrid’s Modric, while Rakitic will sit farther back and use his beautiful long blond locks to spray intelligent passes all over the field. Out wide, Perisic and the workhorse Olic should have some luck against Brazil’s wandering fullbacks, Dani Alves and Marcelo.
Brazil, meanwhile, are always set up to attack, especially at home, although Brazil’s current squad is more counterattacking than possession-based and we may see some nerves in their first match of this hugely high-pressure tournament. Watch Oscar, who is the smartest player in Brazil’s side and will often make things happen where nobody else sees them. Neymar, of course, is electric with the ball, but he needs space, and Brazil might not be able to give that to him if they fall behind. They didn’t in last year’s Confederations Cup warmup tournament, so we’ll see. As always, for a deeper tactical rundown, check out Zonal Marking.
The two commentators are Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. They are brilliant together; their subtle humor bubbles along underneath their analysis, occasionally bubbling over at the expense of the players or circumstances. They never shy away from pointing out what is ridiculous about the sport.
Match-specific Drinking Games
Neymar (and Oscar) Nutmegs: Take a drink whenever Neymar or Oscar slips the ball through an opponent’s legs. How drunk? You’ll be tipsy.
David Luiz Howlers: Take a sip anytime Brazil’s Sideshow Bob lookalike number four makes a game-changing error. How drunk? You won’t get drunk, but you’ll certainly wet your whistle.
Dani Alves Out of Position: Drink whenever a Croatia player runs free down the left wing while Dani recovers from an ill-conceived attack. How drunk? Hospitalized.
Brazil: Cachaça, especially in a good caipirinha.
Croatia: Slivovitz, which you can make yourself in time for the next World Cup.
– Read my general World Cup watching guide.
– Check out Zonal Marking, my favorite tactics website.
– See a commentary schedule or a review of each commentator.
– See where I’m getting my national drink recommendations.
– Check out other match previews from this group: Mexico vs. Cameroon
Picture credit: thecitizenng.com