The build-up is over, the "when is it going to start, I cannot wait" feeling can be put to the backburner, the FIFA World Cup 2014 is upon us with a humdinger of an opening clash of Brazil vs Croatia expected to whet the appetite for the rest of the matches in the month-long tournament.
Where to Watch Live:
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The opening game of the 2014 World Cup is scheduled for a 5 pm local time (1.30 am IST, 9 pm BST, 4 pm ET) start with live coverage on Sony Six and Sony Six HD in India. Brazil vs Croatia can also be watch via live streaming online HERE in India. Catch the action in the UK on ITV and BBC with the live streaming option HERE or HERE. US viewers can watch the game on ESPN and ABC while you can also live stream the action HERE. Australia viewers click HERE to watch the game online, while South Africa viewers can catch the match HERE.
Brazil is undoubtedly the home of football; the passion for the sport unrivalled and the incredible history – no team have won more World Cups than Brazil – making the country the go-to place.
After a long wait for a chance to host the World Cup again, Brazil will look to mark this major occasion by clinching their sixth title. The first step towards that aim will be a win against Croatia, a dangerous team, filled with exciting playmakers and impressive strikers.
Brazil come into the World Cup in good form, with Luiz Felipe Scolari, the coach who guided Brazil to their last WC title in 2002, building a strong squad with an emphasis on a solid defence. While Brazil are known for their flair and ridiculous attacking talent, this Brazil side is a little more mercurial, with big central defenders and equally formidable defensive midfielders forming the backbone of their team.
The attacking flair will be left up to Neymar, the country's big hope and leading man at the World Cup. While Neymar has blown hot and cold with Barcelona, there is no doubt about his prowess in the blue and gold colours of Brazil – time and again Neymar has proven his ability for his national team and if he clicks, Brazil will go a long way.
"Everyone asks me about Neymar, about how he is, and they say that he's only 22," Brazil technical director Carlos Alberto Perreira told FIFA's official website. "But does he look apprehensive? Not a bit of it.
"You see him here and you see him in training every day and he just looks so relaxed. You'd never think he was about to take part in the World Cup in Brazil, with the world expecting him to be the best. It just makes us feel that he's going to be performing at a very high level."
Neymar alone cannot do it all, of course, and there will be 22 players alongside him looking to inch Brazil to that dream World Cup title in front of their own fans. Winning the title at home, Scolari feels, is almost Brazil's destiny, after the last WC they hosted way back in 1950 ended in disappointment.
"To all Brazilians I want to tell you the time has arrived. This is our World Cup," Scolari thundered on Wednesday. "There are seven steps. We have to go up those seven steps but to start we have to think of the first step. We can't jump the seven steps.
"The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."
That first step will not be simple, though, with Croatia easily capable of spoiling the Samba party. The European side started their qualification campaign in rampant style, going unbeaten in their first six matches, while winning five. However, a major tailing-off in the next few matches, meant they had to take the playoff route to qualify, which they duly did with a hard-fought two-legged win over Iceland.
While anything can happen once you qualify for the knockout rounds, consistency and picking up points will be key in the group stages, and with Group A also having Mexico and Cameroon, Croatia will be keen to pick up at least a point against Brazil to put them in a strong position heading into the next two games.
"I can't promise to win the World Cup or to progress out of the group," said Croatia skipper Darijo Srna, one of the many talented and experienced players in the squad. "I can't promise to beat Brazil but it is a promise that we will give our all, the last atom of strength."
Brazil, however, are in prime form, coming off an impressive Confederations Cup title victory, a year ago at home, and Scolari's men look primed to have another tilt at the title; at least that's what the majority of the fans at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo will be hoping.
Team news: Brazil: Scolari does not have too many injury concerns, and the coach is expected to field his best lineup on Thursday.
Croatia: Striker Mario Mandzukic will miss the match against Brazil due to suspension. The Bayern Munich forward picked up a red card in the playoff against Iceland.
Key men: Brazil: Neymar is the obvious choice, but the other attacking three of Hulk, Oscar and Fred will be equally vital to ensure Brazil find a way past Croatia's defence.
Croatia: Midfielder Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be vital for their team. If they can get on the ball at will, then they will hurt Brazil.
Expected lineups: Brazil: Cesar; Alves, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Lovren, Corluka, Pranjic; Vukojevic, Modric; Perisic, Rakitic, Kovacic; Olic.
Prediction: 2-1 to Brazil