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.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
News
news
News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices