No pressure, Brazil, no pressure. Thoughts inevitably turn to 1950, when FIFA’s peculiar decision to have a group stage for the final round of the competition left Brazil – hosts then, as now – needing a draw from their final match against Uruguay to win the competition. So it was that over 199,000 turned out at the Maracana and saw the host nation take the lead, before freezing and allowing Uruguay to win the competition for a second time. This loss turned out to be a psychological scar that some say the country never quite recovered from, even though they have won it five times since then. It’s now been twelve years since they last won the tournament, and this summer’s jamboree is considered theirs to lose.
Croatia, meanwhile, rode their luck a little just to be here. Qualifiers through the play-offs after a two-legged win against Iceland which wasn’t as comfortable as it should have been, there’s been a shake-up behind the scenes with Davor Suker taking over as the president of their football association, their friendly results – wins over Mali and Australia, and a draw against Switzerland – haven’t been especially impressive, and hipster’s choice Chile are likely to be breathing own their neck in this group, if we presume that Brazil shouldn’t mess up qualifying from this group. But anyway, we’ll be back shortly for pre-match canapes, followed by live commentary on the match in Sao Paulo. Well, live commentary on the match in Sao Paulo until we get bored and start talking about something else.
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