One of the most advantageous aspects that any home nation enjoys from a World Cup is momentum. That will be what Brazil will be hoping to create at the World Cup this year as they try to win the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
Brazil are in a group they should take first place in, but not just taking first place but exactly how they do it could help to shape just how they will fare in the knockout stages. Brazil have a very good team, but it’s probably fair to say it’s not a great Brazil team either — they have had better, that’s for sure. So any help the team can get should be seized upon. Momentum is one of those things that can get be a great help for any team, and Brazil will be no different.
A great example of this was seen in 2002 when the World Cup was held in Korea and Japan. The hopes were not particularly high for either Japan or South Korea before the tournament started, more hopeful than anything. But Japan managed to finish top of their group before exiting in the second round and South Korea miraculously managed to reach the semifinal stage.
To think that South Korea actually overcame Portugal, Italy and Spain before finally falling to Germany is quite staggering. It was the first time that either nation had advanced beyond the group stage in their World Cup history, and they did it on home soil. So building momentum, making the country believe and making them dream will be the best achievement Brazil could aim for in the early stages, outside of just qualifying from the group.
All of that starts when Brazil open the tournament against Croatia on June 12 in the Arena de Sao Paulo, and that will be the most important game of the knockout stages for the Brazilians. Croatia and Mexico seem to be their nearest rivals in Group A — ahead of Cameroon — but they are rivals that they should overcome. Beating Croatia in the opening game will give Brazil, both the players and the fans, the positive start that they need.
If they don’t win the first game, then the group could become very difficult and the anxiety levels will then rise. If you’re struggling to get out of this group, how are you going to win the whole thing? That is something that Brazil will need to avoid and just another reason why the opening game against Croatia will be the most important for the Selecao in the group stage.