World Cup 2014: Opening Ceremony and Brazil v Croatia – LIVE - Live coverage - The Independent

World Cup 2014: Opening Ceremony and Brazil v Croatia – LIVE

Brazil v Croatia 
Welcome to the Independent's live coverage of the Fifa World Cup in Brazil with Samuel Stevens and Marc Williams as the hosts prepare to take on Croatia at São Paulo's Arena Corinthians at 9pm British time...

    The sun sets on the Copacabana Beach last night 

    Welcome to the Independent’s live coverage of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in São Paulo as Brazil prepare to take on Croatia at the Arena Corinthians at 9pm.

    With a young, talented but decidedly inexperienced squad to pick from, Luiz Felipe Scolari has an expectant nation ready to take aim should Brazil fail to secure a record sixth World Cup triumph.

    After lifting the Confederations Cup on home turf last summer, the mood in Brazil is hanging on a precipice. If they concede the first goal, they could undoubtedly crumble. Score first, however, and the samba show of old may just roll into town.

    Should Croatia manage to overcome their illustrious hosts this evening, in front of an estimated 55,000 home supporters, today’s date will surely be etched into World Cup history.

    6/12/2014 9:41:42 AM

    The state of the pitch in Manaus 

    Pitch woes threaten to scupper English hopes

    England are almost ready to tackle 2006 World Cup winners Italy, the side who famously knocked them out of Euro 2012, in front of an estimated television audience of 600 million people on Saturday night.

    Good job then, being at the world's largest sporting event, that the pitch will be in decent nick then, right?

    Unfortunately not. Yesterday, the head groundsman for the turf provider confirmed: "Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape."

    At least this year’s customary excuse is already sorted. Without a dentist chair or metatarsal in sight, the lack of get-out clauses was proving to be slightly unnerving.

    6/12/2014 9:56:13 AM
    Sepp up to his old tricks again

    Sepp Blatter, the most popular Fifa president in the governing body's glorious history, has announced that he plans to stand for a fifth term in office.

    Earlier this week, Mr Blatter had suggested that racism was behind the allegations of corruption made by the British press and on Tuesday the FA chairman, Greg Dyke, described his remarks as “unacceptable”.

    The Sunday Times had revealed an alleged chain of payments and meetings between FIFA officials and members of Qatar’s 2022 bid committee.
    6/12/2014 10:02:02 AM
    Here's our chief football correspondent, Sam Wallace, on Danny Welbeck's exclusion from England training yesterday afternoon.

    6/12/2014 10:05:21 AM
    'Big Phil' ahead of today's opener 

    Scolari in bullish mood ahead of tonight’s clash with Croatia

    The Brazil head coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, has announced that the 2014 World Cup belongs to Brazil and that it is essential the samba national start with a win tonight.

    "To all Brazilians, I want to tell you the time has arrived," the 65-year-old said.

    This is our World Cup. 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 against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."

    Many pundits' favourites to be crowned world champions, this Brazil team are perhaps the most under pressure side in sporting history.
    6/12/2014 10:27:45 AM
    World Cup stat: Most penalty victories – Germany (four out of four)

    Those pesky Germans do it again in 1990 

    In the least startling piece of trivia known to man, the Germans are statistically the World Cup’s most prolific penalty takers. 

    Winning all four of their penalty shoot-outs, they are the most formidable spot-kicking side in the competition’s history.

    Perhaps even more unsurprisingly, the Three Lions (along with Group D rivals Italy) are rooted at the opposite end of the spectrum…

    The God's won't help you now, Sven 

    Jinking Archie Gemmill, Ronaldo's revenge, Brazil's joy - our writers select their favourite World Cup memories. 
    6/12/2014 10:37:56 AM
    Twittersphere update: Playstation, power naps and Rik Mayall tributes

    After the almost dictatorial reign of Fabio Capello in 2010, the England squad appear to be revelling in the new-found freedom under Roy Hodgson. 

    Here's what the lads have been getting up to over the last few days...

    Liverpool right-back, Glen Johnson, is excited for tonight's kick-off.

    His Kop teammate Daniel Sturridge, on the other hand, appears to have hosted quite the Fifa tournament at the squad hotel.

    The Liverpool trend continues with Reheem Sterling, heavily tipped to have an impressive World Cup, taking a well deserved rest.

    Ben Foster joined the chorus of appreciation for Blackadder and Young Ones star Rik Mayall.

    Wayne Rooney, facing calls to be dropped from the starting line-up, has been getting his daily dose of Kevin Spacey.

    And finally, Fraser Forster tweeted his charming photo of the EFF charity's latest project.

    6/12/2014 11:29:42 AM
    World Cup stat: Most red cards - Zinedine Zidane – Two

    So close and yet so far... 

    Is this the most iconic football picture of the modern era?

    With France and Italy equally poised at a goal apiece in the first period of extra-time in the 2006 World Cup final, the Real Madrid legend inadvertently placed his forehead into the chest of Azzurri defender Marco Materazzi.

    The rest, of course, is history as the Italians triumphed on penalties with Zidane still in the shower when his dejected teammates trudged back into the changing room.

    His first dismissal, during a routine 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in 1998, was considerably less costly.

    While Cameroon’s Rigobert Song’s shares his record of two red cards, that ill-fated evening in Berlin will haunt the Frenchman for years to come.

    Jinking Archie Gemmill, Ronaldo's revenge, Brazil's joy - our writers select their favourite World Cup memories.
    6/12/2014 11:35:27 AM
    Gotta catch 'em all!

    And, with this picture, Japan have just became the entire world's 'second team'. 

    It may be fake, but the buzz ahead of tonight's kick-off continues to build.

    The Japanese are considered rank outsiders but - alongside the Ivory Coast, Greece and Columbia in Group C - could progress to the knock-out stages.

    6/12/2014 11:41:19 AM

    Del Bosque: Spain can reign again 

    The World Cup and European Championship holders 

    One thousand, four hundred and thirty-two days ago, Howard Webb called time on a frankly ruthless World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

    Andres Iniesta and friends tika-takaed their way to glory and, two years later, even added another European Championships to their collection. 

    Robin Scott-Elliot has analysed their chances this year.

    If they win the World Cup once more, you suspect that they will rightfully be regarded as the greatest international team to have ever graced a football field.

    We are very optimistic about our chances of winning again

    The final piece of the jigsaw, a striker in the form of Atlético Madrid forward Diego Costa, has finally be filled. 

    Don’t be surprised if Vicente del Bosque’s men reign once more.

    6/12/2014 11:51:43 AM
    Roy Hodgson's pockets are lighter than Fabio Capello's

     Roy Hodgson speaks to the media in Brazil

    While his pay cheque may be modest by the FA's outrageous standards, Roy Hodgson is hardly strapped for cash.

    The second-highest earner at this summer's World Cup, the former Inter Milan and Liverpool manager earns an estimated £3.5m a year.

    Behind his predecessor Capello, who earns roughly £7m every twelve months with Russia, the England manager is handsomely compensated nonetheless.

    Niko Kovač, the Croatia manager, is the lowest paid boss but still earns nineteen times that of an average Croat.
    6/12/2014 12:03:31 PM
    Best World Cup memory: Brazil - Winners in 1970

    Brazil line-up against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final

    When, like Brazil, you have lifted the World Cup trophy five times, it could perhaps be a touch tricky to pick a favourite. 

    Despite their unrivalled success, those spoilt Brazilians are still a popular bunch. The first World Cup to be broadcast in colour, it is poetic that they are accredited with lighting up the beautiful game.

    Their sumptuous romp to the 1970 title, defined by a new age of attacking football, is still generally considered to be the best victory by any side in the sport's history.

    Along the way, the enigmatic Brazilians would finish top of a group which also featured Czechoslovakia, Romania and reigning world champions England. It’s not often you can type that about the Three Lions.

    Whether it was Pele’s irresistible trickery, Jairzinho’s fearsome goal-scoring abilities or Carlos Alberto’s lighting pace, Brazil became the first side to win the World Cup with such an effervescent swagger. 

    England may have invented football, but this was the year that Brazil made it beautiful.

    Jinking Archie Gemmill, Ronaldo's revenge, Brazil's joy - our writers select their favourite World Cup memories.
    6/12/2014 1:50:29 PM
    Michel Platini on Sepp Blatter: 'I am supporting him no longer'

    It's all a little frosty... 

    As the picture above would suggest, Sepp Blatter's relationship with Michel Platini has hit the rocks.

    First came the missed phone calls and now Platani has announced: "It's finished."

    Set against the backdrop of raging controversy surrounding the decision to award Qatar with the 2022 World Cup, this represents a major blow for the 78-year-old.

    On the opening day of the 2014 World Cup, Fifa president Blatter has come in for possibly his most damning indictment yet with his Uefa counterpart saying he will no longer support him.

    I am supporting him no longer, it’s finished. I have known him for a long time, I like him, but I’m not favourable to him having another term

    “I supported him in 1998, but I do not support in 2014," he continued. "And in the future, I shall not support Blatter. I told him that. I think Fifa needs a breath of fresh air."
    6/12/2014 2:07:34 PM
    World Cup players to watch: Eden Hazard, Belgium

    The Roadrunner goes forth

    After a sensational campaign in the blue of Chelsea, expectations of Eden Hazard have been inflated even further ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

    The former Lille man has come an awful long way in recent years. It's remarkable to think that it took him 23 appearances to finally hit the back of the net for his country.

    While his role at Stamford Bridge is to both create chances and score from wide positions, the Belgian national team have rested their entire hopes upon his shoulders.

    More than a player, the 23-year-old is a symbol of their new-found talent. No wonder Paris Saint Germain are being linked with a stunning £45m bid for the starlet after the tournament.

    If Hazard starts scoring in Brazil, it's worth assuming that Belgium are going to be in for one hell of a summer.
    6/12/2014 3:24:48 PM
    Reports of unrest across Brazil

    It was always likely to happen and it does indeed seem to be the case that the World Cup will start under the cloud of political protests across the country.

    While some British television stations are reporting the use of tear gas and pepper spray, these stories are unconfirmed.

    It is not thought that the safety of visiting supporters is an issue.
    6/12/2014 3:33:31 PM
    World Cup players to watch: Paul Pogba, France

    The man with 'more technical ability than Patrick Vieira'

    Just twenty-one years old and with the world at his feat, Juventus star Paul Pogba has a point to prove.

    After being sold by Manchester United in 2012, the Frenchman was desperate to prove Sir Alex Ferguson wrong. Going into the World Cup as perhaps one of the most exciting talents in world football, it's safe to say that he's done exactly that.

    Replacing Juve hero Claudio Marchisio in the heart of their midfield, the Old Lady couldn't believe their luck after signing Pogba for a minimal fee.

    Now an indispensable member of Les Bleus' first team, his unique blend of power and precision have catapulted him to the very top of European wish-lists.

    Even linked with a move back to Old Trafford, to Louis van Gaal's Red Devils, his career is going anywhere but backwards.
    6/12/2014 3:49:33 PM
    Referee announced for England v Italy
    Dutch ref Kuipers

    Fifa have announced the referee who will officiate England's opening game of the World Cup against Italy.

    Bjorn Kuipers, who took charge of the Champions League final between Atlético and Real Madrid last month, will be the man in the middle on Saturday night.

    Now, let me check his previous record to find a possible excuse when England lose...
    6/12/2014 3:58:44 PM
    World Cup players to watch: Mateo Kovacic, Croatia

    Inter's newest wide man

    While not necessarily a household name round these parts, Inter Milan's midfield technician Mateo Kovacic could light up this year's World Cup.

    Provided Croatia stay in the tournament long enough for him to make an impact, it's worth keeping one eye on Kovacic's progress this summer.

    Leaving Dinamo Zagreb for £12m in January 2013, Inter has proven to be the perfect place for the 20-year-old ace to work on his talents.

    It hadn't started so rosily, however, as two different managers used him sparingly while the back of the net has proven to be somewhat elusive.

    The fact that the Italians have given him the prestigious no. 10 shirt, which used to belong to Wesley Sneijder, gives you an inkling into their thinking.
    Kovacic is one for the future.
    6/12/2014 4:11:43 PM
    Sam Wallace has arrived at the Arena Amazônia - where England will take on Italy on Saturday night - and has posted these pictures on Twitter. Car parks are the least of Brazil's problems today it would seem...

    6/12/2014 4:16:56 PM
    England handed Welbeck boost as Manchester United star trains

    Welbeck in action against Peru

    While many England fans continue to dizzy themselves over the prospect of Ross Barkley starting for England this weekend, a far more likely option is Danny Welbeck.

    Popular with Roy Hodgson, the Manchester United forward has given the England coaching team a huge boost by shrugging off his hamstring concerns.

    Welbeck has been seen as a vital part of the England game plan against the Italians - based primarily on stifling Andrea Pirlo - which has been under preparation for weeks.

    Stop Pirlo and you halt the Italian charge.
    6/12/2014 4:26:09 PM
    6/12/2014 4:29:44 PM
    Team news: Big shame for Croatia tonight as they will be without suspended striker Mario Mandzukic. As if there task wasn't tough enough! Nikica Jelavic or Eduardo will deputise and should be sufficient cover for their striker but its a real loss.

    The Croatians also made a last second change to their squad on Wednesyda with Milan Badelj replacing injured midfielder Ivan Mocinic.

    Brazil are likely to play the same line-up as they did against Spain in last summer's Confederations Cup final victory.

    All the official team news as soon as we get it!
    6/12/2014 5:38:34 PM

    Who wins in the battle of the kits? I have to say, I've always been partial to the Croatian's checks. Thoughts??
    6/12/2014 5:41:01 PM
    Ian Herbert had a chat with the one and only Cafu recently and the Brazilian legend shared his thoughts about the possible glory that his country could be in for in a few weeks' time. 

    "We fear no one. We will lose to no one," said a man who knows more about World Cup finals than any other Brazilian, having played in three and won two of them.

    6/12/2014 5:45:00 PM

    Football really does bring people together better than almost anything else. Brazil and Croatia fans mixing well and looking splendid ahead of kick off.
    6/12/2014 5:48:32 PM
    Neymar and his Brazil teammates have some massive shoes to fill and the hopes and expectations of the whole nation are upon them. If they don't win this World Cup trophy it will be seen as failure in the eyes of the public and that is some pressure on some shoulders. 

    Glenn Moore has a closer look at tonight's game and what we can expect from the game. He also talks about what the players will have to deal with in terms of history and their country's demands. 

    Brazil should be confident and can be expected to start fast, pressing Croatia and looking for an early breakthrough to calm nerves and intimidate the Croatians. For their part Croatia should look to counter-attack into the space behind Brazil’s adventurous full-backs, and try to quieten the crowd. Easier said than done, of course.

    6/12/2014 5:53:20 PM

    6/12/2014 7:48:25 PM

    Smiles all round! 
    6/12/2014 7:50:16 PM
    Go to the loo, get a drink, put the dog out, whatever you have to do, only ten minutes to go...
    6/12/2014 7:50:29 PM
    Croatia are in their beautifully bizarre kit of red and white squares and Brazil are in their legendary yellow, blue and white. Teams are in the tunnel, just minutes away. 
    6/12/2014 7:52:54 PM
    The Brazil players walk out with one hand on the player's shoulder in front of them, as they always have, looks great! National Anthem time!
    6/12/2014 7:54:17 PM
    Croatia's men turn and face their flag, little bit of nerves in their eyes, who could blame them for that. All but their 'keeper Pletikosa who can't look at all! Great anthem, Brazil over to you.
    6/12/2014 7:56:46 PM
    I think Brazil win that round, as the host nation belts out the anthem. The crowd and players in full voice, superb!!! Did Eduardo have a little sing along too??
    6/12/2014 7:58:25 PM
    The opening game is just seconds away and (in the words of Martin Tyler) it's LIIIIVE!
    6/12/2014 7:59:56 PM
    Three doves are released into the air as the players complete their hand shakes. Hope those birds find a nice place to sit and watch the action. Croatia get the 2014 World Cup underway.
    6/12/2014 8:02:24 PM
    1 min: David Luiz makes his impression early on with a tackle on Olic and Kovacic has an early strike at goal but well wide. Both Brazil's full-backs are booming on already and we would expect nothing less. 
    6/12/2014 8:04:29 PM
    3 min: Looks like pretty much a full house here and our referee tonight is Yuichi Nishimura. David Luiz gets his studs to an early cross, just about, bit of nerves from Sideshow Bob?
    6/12/2014 8:05:51 PM
    4 min: Corluka bundles into Hulk and knocks the big man flying, that takes some effort I must say! He does give away a free kick though. The ball finds its way to Luiz who has the first shot (er, header) on target but it's tame and Pletikosa collects with ease.
    6/12/2014 8:09:01 PM
    6min: Chance for Croatia. Ohhh the hosts could be behind! Perisic finds some room down the right and looks up to his Wolfsburg teammate Olic in the box. The forward can't quite get enough on it though and heads down into the ground and wide, good chacne
    6/12/2014 8:10:58 PM
    9 min: Brazil have a corner from Paulinho's long range effort but it comes to nothing. 
    6/12/2014 8:12:41 PM
    GOAL!! Brazil 0 Croatia 1 Marcelo own goal!!
    6/12/2014 8:13:03 PM
    10min: Dear, oh dear. Marcelo what have you done! Croatia burst down the left wing after good work from Rakitic. Olic gets the ball into the box early on and after Jelavic misses it, Marcelo can only stab it over the line and stun the Sao Paulo crowd! 
    6/12/2014 8:15:48 PM
    13 min: The game has settled down a bit with Brazil trying to regroup and go again. With the crowd getting their voice back, Oscar flashes a fine cross to the back post. It bounces just to high for Neymar who cant stretch enough. 

    Croatia have really turned up to this one, can Brazil hit back?
    6/12/2014 8:18:09 PM
    16 min: Brazil are starting to get a proper foothold in this game now. They are playing the ball around nicely and look comfortable with it. Look up at that top corner and it's still 1-0 though and doesn't look like changing just yet. Brazil have a couple of flashes but nothing special and then Croatia get their first spell of possession since the goal.
    6/12/2014 8:21:02 PM
    19 min: Chance for Brazil. Tottenham's Paulinho looks up for it tonight! He burst past Premier League counterpart Lovren and cracks a shot at goal. Pletikosa pats it back out and the rebound is cleared. 

    Just seconds later another Prem star Oscar this time hits at goal with a great curling effort and Pletikosa does well again. 

    All Brazil now, those samba feet are working!!
    6/12/2014 8:25:02 PM
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