December 18, 2014
Croatia coach, players confident they can stun Brazil
Croatia coach Niko Kovac and Brazilian-born midfielder Sammir believe the 1998 World Cup semi-finalists can rekindle past glory and upset hosts Brazil in Thursday's tournament opener in Sao Paulo.
Kovac, who steered Croatia to the finals with a 2-0 aggregate playoff win over Iceland in November having taken over from the sacked Igor Stimac, was buoyed by Brazil's patchy performance in a 1-0 win over Serbia in their final warmup.
"Brazil looked a bit weary against the Serbs and the pressure to deliver on home soil is already everywhere to be seen," Kovac was quoted as saying in Croatian media on Sunday.
"It seems they are expected not only to win all their games but also play entertaining football too and that is our chance. The longer we hold our own the more anxious they will get and we want to make it as difficult as possible for them.
"We certainly won't park the bus in our penalty box, we want to have a real go at them and are confident that we can get a result. They've won 15 of their last 16 games but I know what tactics to deploy."
Left back Danijel Pranjic will miss the Group A opener after spraining his left ankle in Saturday's 1-0 friendly win over Australia and Sime Vrsaljko appears set to take his slot.
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will pull the strings in the centre of midfield behind a three-pronged line of Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic and Ivica Olic, with Nikica Jelavic likely to be deployed as a lone striker.
Croatia's two Brazilian-born internationals, Sammir and striker Eduardo da Silva, could be used as impact substitutes.