Brazil given early bonus for World Cup
Brazil's first opponents at next year's World Cup have suffered a selection blow before a ball has been kicked.
Croatia, who face the hosts in the tournament's opening game in Sao Paulo on June 12th, will have to compete without the major attacking threat of Mario Mandzukic.
The 27 year-old Bayern Munich striker, who has 46 caps to his name, has been a prominent figure in his club's rise to the peak of European football, amassing 25 league goals since his switch from VfL Wolfsburg in the summer of 2012.
Mandzukic will have to wait to add to his 13 international goals as he serves a one-match ban for a red card in the World Cup Play-Off victory over Iceland last month.
The news is a bonus for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side, who will feel more confident about facing the world's 16th-ranked team in the opening act of next year's footballing spectacle. The two sides met at the 2006 tournament in Group F, with Kaka providing the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory for the Selecao.
Of course that 'Dream Team', also featuring Ronaldo, Adriano and Ronaldinho, never lived up to expectations, losing as they did to France in the Quarter Finals. Scolari will be hoping a win against Croatia in 2014 can provide the stimulus to go even further on home soil.