World Cup interest is at fever pitch on the eve of Thursday’s kick-off in Brazil.
The tournament sees the hosts open against Croatia in their biggest city, Sao Paulo, at the brand new Corinthians Arena. With all the controversy and protests in the lead up to this tournament, Brazil want not only to win comfortably, but look stylish in doing so. Samba football at its best.
It should be a great start to a football carnival that finishes in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
The competition features 32 nations and is broken up into group games followed by knockout matches.
The top two teams in each of the eight groups, determined by a round-robin format, will advance.
Spain are the defending champions, having won in South Africa four years ago, but Brazil have the most titles with five and are betting favorites. With home advantage and players of the caliber of Neymar, Hulk and David Luiz, they have every reason to think a sixth title is assured.
Croatia are not expected to be difficult to break down and the other teams in Group A are Mexico and Cameroon.
Brazil were superb in capturing the 2013 Confederations Cup, at home, winning all five matches including magnificent victories over Italy, Spain and Uruguay. Add to this seven straight wins in friendlies and things look bleak for the Croatians.
Another reason for Brazilian optimism is that their boss Felipe “Big Phil” Scolari knows exactly what it takes to win a World Cup, having achieved that in their last triumph, in Japan and Korea, 12 years ago.
Thursday’s kickoff is at 3 p.m. Cayman time and can be seen on Island 24 free over the air and Channel 24 on WestStar.
Friday’s games are also on those Cayman channels. They are Mexico v Cameroon (11 a.m.), Spain v Holland (2 p.m.) And Chile v Australia (5 p.m.).
England open their account against Italy on Saturday at 5 p.m. Argentina are another big betting favorite. They play Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Spain are also European champions and under legendary boss Vincent Del Bosque can rely on the experience of players like Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta.
Newcomers starting to make a major case for a starting berth include Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez and Isco. Del Bosque also has Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa at his disposal after the Brazilian-born forward made the decision to commit to the world champions over Brazil.
Chile should not have much trouble in overcoming the Aussies and will rely on their top forward, Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez for vital goals. He has scored 22 times in 65 internationals.
Sanchez is particularly well known to England fans having scored both goals when Chile beat them 2–0 at Wembley Stadium last November.