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Brazil v Croatia - Preview

Fred, Paulinho and Marcelo practise their World Cup celebrations
Mowa
Today is Brazil’s ‘first step’, as Luiz Felipe Scolari described the opener against Croatia. This small step, of the seven to the final, will offer the first indication of whether the host nation has what it takes to make one giant leap to World Cup glory and banishing the agony of the 1950 defeat against Uruguay.

Scolari should be able to choose his first-choice XI for this evening's match at the Itaquerão Stadium in São Paulo. If all preferred players are fit, the main debate revolves around whether Willian can usurp his Chelsea teammate, Oscar, for a place in the three behind Fred.

Croatia's coach, Niko Kovac, has bigger problems, with a number of injuries in the camp. The biggest disappointment for Kovac is striker Mario Mandzukic's suspension. Brazilian-born Eduardo is one alternative up front but, unfortunately for the neutrals, it is unlikely that he will be selected to start the game.

Croatia will be hoping that, with the likes of Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić in the side, they have enough talent to threaten a major upset in São Paulo.

Follow our live text service for updates an hour ahead of Brazil's opener with Croatia, which begins at 21:00 BST. Text commentary will continue throughout the game, with analysis and match reports after the action has finished.

Predicted starting XI: Júlio César, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Neymar, Hulk, Fred.

 
 

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