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Brazil, Croatia to kick off 2014 World Cup

The Baltimore Sun

Every morning, we'll break down the coming day's World Cup action in Brazil.

What's on tap: Brazil vs Croatia, 4 p.m., ESPN

Group preview:  Group A.

What you’ll see: There’s only one game on the opening day of 2014 World Cup, but it’ll go a long way to determining the fate of Group A. The physical advantage Brazil has over Croatia will only be magnified in Sao Paolo, where the opening ceremony will work the home crowd into a frenzy before the five-time champions even step onto the field.

Brazil’s reputation is for producing strong attackers, but aside from the prodigious Neymar, its strength is really in the midfield. The Chelsea contingent of Willian, Oscar, and Ramires, plus Manchester City’s Fernandinho, represent a strong midfield core for Brazil to use to overpower Croatia, as they did in the Confederations Cup last summer.

Croatia’s talismanic midfielder Luka Modric has years of experience going toe-to-toe with players much larger than him, and he’ll have to again on Thursday. Keep an eye on Croatian striker Eduardo, who was born in Brazil but played for long enough in Croatia that they granted him a passport. He’s the second highest scorer in Croatia’s history (29), and even though he won’t be in his Brazilian yellow kit, this will likely mean a lot to him.

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