Brazil v Croatia – Expect A Slow Samba Start
Brazil v Croatia
The wait is over! Brazil play Croatia at 9pm on Thursday night so lets see where the value lies.
Phil Scolari’s men concluded their World Cup preparations with a nervy 1-0 win over Serbia, but made it nine consecutive victories in doing so, having previously beaten Panama 4-0.
Strikers Neymar, Fred and Hulk have all got on the scoresheet in the last two games, with Dani Alves and Willian also getting in on the act.
Of some concern will be the way in which they struggled past Serbia – Brazil’s most recent defeat also came against European opposition (Switzerland) – and the fact that fans were quick to turn, booing the players off with the scoreline goalless at half-time.
Although home advantage can be a great positive for the hosts, it will also make things that much more difficult if they don’t live up to expectations.
Croatia also signed off from their preparations with a 1-0 win as Niko Kovač’s men saw off Australia thanks to a solitary strike from Hull forward Nikica Jelavic.
The Blazers had previously beaten Mali 2-1, in Croatia, thanks to a couple of goals from Ivan Perisic
There was a scare for Brazilians on Monday as Neymar went down clutching his ankle and then received treatment on the pitch during training.
However, the Barcelona striker was soon back on his feet and managed to carry on and complete the remainder of the training session.
Fred is expected to partner Neymar in attack, while Soclari has a decision to make regarding who to include in his midfield, with one of Chelsea duo Oscar and Willian likely to miss out.
Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic scored 33% of his side’s goals in qualification and the Bayern Munich striker is suspended for this game following his horror tackle in the play-off match against Iceland.
Barcelona target Ivan Rakitic and former Tottenham man Vedran Corluka were rested for the final World Cup warm-up match against Australia but can be expected to start this one.
Brazil and Croatia also kicked off their 2006 World Cup campaigns against one another, with the Samba Nation emerging as 1-0 winners in a tight match in Berlin.
Kaka scored the only goal of the game just before half-time with Brazil going on to top their group and Croatia being eliminated from the competition following two consecutive draws.
Brazil are deserved favourites at odds of 1/3 but do not represent value at such a short price.
Croatia are likely to make things extremely difficult for the hosts and have an abundance of talent of their own who are able to cause problems, although we can probably expect Brazil to come out on top eventually.
The Draw/Brazil option in the HT/FT market at odds of 14/5 looks a sound bet, as does the Croatia +2 Handicap bet at 3/4.
Neymar leads the way in the goalscorer markets at odds of 11/4 to score first, but strike partner Fred represents better value at the 10/3 available.
Goals in general, however, could be at a premium and Under 2.5 of them at odds of 4/5 is my leading selection.