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Brazil vs. Croatia (Group A) | Kickoff: June 13, 01 30 IST | Stadium: Corinthians, São Paulo

And so it begins! The much-awaited World Cup 2014 is about to start in a few minutes. As per tradition, the host nation plays the first match, and in this case, it is Brazil against Croatia. For a nation where football is a way of life and the teams you support are your identity, it is surprising that there have been several large protests in Brazil in the lead-up to the great event. That, however, should not cause anyone to doubt the total allegiance the locals have to their team.

If anyone tells you that they like a team because of the players on it or because of their skill, they are either lying to you or know nothing about football. If football were truly about technique and skill, only the top four or five teams and players would have any fans at all. Real football fans love a team for idiosyncrasies, personal or the team’s, and then justify their support post hoc. As Robert Heinlein said, “Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalising one.”

Croatia is no doubt a minnow compared to a team that has won the World Cup five times. Brazil has a rich history of magicians with the ball – Manuel Francisco dos Santos, Sócrates, Arthur Coimbra, Jair Ventura Filho, Paulo Roberto Falcão; in contrast, Croatia as a state does not go back before June 1991. Brazil has dominated the post-war football world, while Croatia has been a fair team that cannot seem to repeat their flair from Euro 1996.

Nonetheless, I hope Croatia will win tonight. This is no romanticism for the underdog but football realpolitik – Brazil is one of the two true challengers to the German campaign. It is also difficult to warm up to a nation so arrogant that it thinks it will win each and every World Cup. Other teams, however good they are, have the decorum to remain muted until the finals. Needless to say, Brazil’s loss to France in the 1998 World Cup final and the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, not to mention the 2010 defeat to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals were particularly sweet moments of schadenfreude.

I don’t know Croatia, but I do know Brazil…and to draw inspiration from a famous Scottish t-shirt, I support two teams – Germany and any team that plays [Brazil/Spain/England]!

Hoćemo pobedu, hoćemo pobedu, hoćemo pobedu Hrvatska!

Update:

Final score: Brazil 3 – 1 Croatia

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