MATCHDAY PREVIEW – Record five-time winners and host nation Brazil will ensure a sprinkling of prestige and history as they kick off the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup™ against an ambitious Croatia side with nothing to lose. All the pressure will be on Neymar and Co in Sao Paulo, with an entire nation desperate for a winning start to their World Cup odyssey on home soil. Niko Kovac's cosmopolitan squad boast the tools to spoil the party, however, drawing talent from some of the biggest clubs in Europe and featuring just two players based in Croatia.
Thursday's encounter will also be the first World Cup finals game contested in the Americas since 17 July 1994, when Brazil defeated Italy 3-2 on penalties at the end of a goalless draw in Los Angeles to clinch their fourth title.
Brazil-Croatia, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Thursday 12 June, 17.00 (local time)
Did you know?
- *Friends reunited:* Brazil and Croatia crossed paths eight years ago on 13 June 2006, with Berlin the backdrop as they got the ball rolling in Group F at Germany 2006. The South American side were given a genuine test by their technically gifted rivals and were left grateful to Kaka's goal just before the break as they began with a slender win. None of the Seleção players that day will be involved this time around, but two of Croatia's 23-man squad will be stepping back into the breach: goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa and captain Darijo Srna. So too, of course, will Niko Kovac, who contested that game alongside his brother and assistant coach Robert. Niko, 42, won 83 caps in total before replacing Igor Stimac last October and helping turn Croatia back into a competitive force.
*- Cutting edge: *For the very first time in a World Cup fixture, Goal-Line Technology (GLT) will be used. The GoalControl-4D system is equipped with 14 high-speed cameras located around the pitch, with seven cameras focusing on each goalmouth. Special detection software determines whether the ball has fully crossed the goal-line, and if it has, the central processing unit automatically sends an encrypted radio signal to the referee's watch less than a second later, indicating a goal by means of a vibration and visual signal.
Mario Mandžukić (CRO) - Bayern Munich forward. 48 caps (13 goals)
Check it out
The Vatreni *boast their very own naturalised Brazilian in striker Eduardo da Silva, who could potentially have been gearing up for this game in the opposition camp. To find out more about Croatia's atypical marksman, read his recent interview with *FIFA.com **on the right hand side.
On this day
On 12 June 1938, Brazil had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their quarter-final against Czechoslovakia at France 1938, despite a goal from Leonidas and 30 minutes of extra time. The teams thus reconvened 48 hours later, locking horns in Bordeaux once again, and this time second-half strikes from Leonidas and Roberto sealed a 2-1 comeback win. *A Seleção *paid for those exertions two days later, however, losing 2-1 to Italy after having rested Leonidas for the Final. Their marathon effort of 300 competitive minutes in the space of four days remains a record.
Play and win
Over 600,000 users have already taken up the challenge, so sign up today for McDonald's FIFA World Cup Fantasy and join in the fun. Select your strategy, build your own dream team, buy and sell players, and rack up points in the race to win some fabulous prizes – including a Kia Soul for the overall winner!
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) June 11, 2014**