World Cup 2014: Can Brazil afford to lose the opening game against Croatia on Thursday?

Spain may have lost their 2010 opener and gone on to win it, but Brazil may never recover if they were to lose to Croatia in Thursday's curtain raiser

The hopes of a nation rest on their shoulders. The ever-expectant fans of Brazil are in even more of a frenzy than usual as the tournament creeps closer, desperate to make up for the failures of 1950, when the World Cup was last held in the country.

But what if the unthinkable were to happen and Brazil lost Thursday’s opener against Croatia? Would there be time to recover and make a serious run for the Jules Rimet trophy or would it be over just as soon as it had begun.

Looking back in time won’t make pretty reading for Brazil, bar one notable exception. Just four teams who eventually went on to win the World Cup have started without victory in their opening game in the tournament and three of those were draws.

Spain broke the mould in 2010 recovering from a shock 1-0 defeat in Durban to Switzerland to go on and win the World Cup in South Africa.

A profligate Spain, heavy favourites after their domination of international football since 2008, faced serious criticism in the aftermath of that loss. Though they had monopolised possession, the Swiss played the game to perfection, absorbing the pressure before striking the fatal blow with a simple counter-attack.

Vicente del Bosque walked a tightrope in the following days, with a number of onlookers declaring the game the death of tiki-taka at the highest level. Spain won their next two games against Honduras and Chile to top the group, but they were far from convincing as they reached the knockout stages.

But Spain were not the host nation on that occasion and will not have to play in stadiums packed to the rafters with fans who not only expect their team to win, but to win well.

In the warm-up game against Serbia on Friday night the Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men were booed off the pitch at half-time because the team were drawing 0-0 with Serbia.

Read more: Roy Hodgson hopeful The Ox will be back for Uruguay
The best 10 games to watch not featuring England
The Independent's interactive guide to the World Cup

Brazil were not at their best but they were completely comfortable in the match, their difficulty in creating chances not just down to stout Serbian defending but also because of terrible, murky weather and a horrendous playing surface inside Sao Paulo’s Estadio do Morumbi.

Brazil eventually won 1-0 thanks to an impressive goal by Fred while on the floor, but still the players trudged off the pitch to boos – though some of them had been silenced. If Brazil fail to beat Croatia, this attitude from the fans could make things immeasurably worse.

Scolari barely lasted 6 months at Chelsea Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari will be under huge pressure if his team don't beat Croatia

This is a nation that feels more detached from their national team than ever before. Not only do the majority of the best Brazilian players ply their trade in Europe, leaving behind a weak domestic league, the national team have embarked on a global tour for the last 18 months, playing the majority of the games in far flung corners of the world.

There was pressure on Scolari from Brazilians to include more domestic-based players, especially Ronaldinho who has been performing well in the Campeonato.

Croatia have a highly talented team that includes Luca Modric (right)

Croatia may have needed a play-off to qualify for the competition, and will be missing star striker Mario Mandzukic who is suspended, but they are a dangerous side.

The Serbia game showed that Brazil have two major weaknesses that Croatia could expose. Serbia managed to disrupt their flow with physical treatment of their stars, with Neymar particularly struggling under the rough justice.

Serbia also exploited Scolari’s 4-2-3-1 formation, counter-attacking in the wide space left unguarded by Neymar and Hulk, who do not like to track their runners. If Darijo Srna and Danijel Pranjic can offer better delivery than Serbia’s Aleksandar Kolarov and Dusan Basta then Brazil will be in real trouble.

Should they lose, Scolari’s team, and especially, may not recover after waiting so long for this moment.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game