On opening day in World Cup history: Brazil would be well-served if it looks back at historic shocks.
Brazil's Neymar during a press conference at the Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (EPA Photo)
As they gear up to open the World Cup against Croatia in Sao Paulo, Brazil could do worse than look back in the history books to avoid any complacency. Over the years, the World Cup has seen its fair share of shock results in the opener, which until 2006 usually involved the defending champion, not the host as is now the norm.
The most famous surprises occurred in Italy in 1990 and in South Korea in 2002. In the former, a downward header from Francois Omam-Biyik was enough for Cameroon to defeat defending champion Argentina 1-0 in Milan in a game that was also notable for the sending off of two Cameroonians.
Twelve years later, France, many people's favorite to retain the title, lost by the same scoreline to Senegal in Seoul after a goal by Papa Bouba Diop. Defeat in the opening game doesn't necessarily mean all hope is lost. Though France was eliminated in the group stage in 2002 without scoring a goal, Argentina somehow managed to scrape through to the final in 1990.
Meanwhile, Croatia vowed on Wednesday to try to create a "miracle" when they take on mighty Brazil in the World Cup opener, refusing to adopt a negative approach against the star-studded home side.
Captain Darijo Srna, speaking a day before the clash in Sao Paulo, said he could not make promises about how the team would perform in the tournament but pledged they would give their 100%.
Croatian national team players during a training session at the stadium Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (EPA Photo)
"I can't promise to win the World Cup or to progress out of the group. I can't promise to beat Brazil but it is a promise that we will give our all, the last atom of strength," he said.
The side, ranked 18th in the world, are led by experienced stars such as Real Madrid midfield star Luka Modric and Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic, who misses the opening match though suspension.
Srna said the prospect of coming up against the favourites and their talisman Neymar at the Corinthians Arena was causing him some concern, joking that he might lock the forward in his hotel room as a last resort.
"I'm not sleeping that well. We are playing the best footballers on the planet," he said.
But he added: "We, little Croatia, will try to create a miracle."
Coach Niko Kovac said he was not losing sleep about the prospect of Neymar wreaking havoc for the five-times world champions, insisting he had had months to prepare for the task.
"Brazil is not just Neymar. There are many other good players in the Brazil side," he said.
"We will try everything to surprise them, to create an upset, to create a positive result," added the coach, who said his side, who like to play possession football, were capable of a "historic result".
Brazilian head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (L) and player Neymar during a press conference at the Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paulo. (EPA Photo)
"We are not going to park the bus tomorrow," he said. "We are going to attack. We are going to seek our chances because Brazil are so strong that if you want success against them you have to score."
The Group A rivals also met in the first round of the World Cup in 2006 in Germany, with Brazil edging the match 1-0. The other teams in their group in Brazil are Cameroon and Mexico.
Croatia are waiting on clearance from governing body Fifa to allow them to replace injured midfielder Ivan Mocinic with Milan Badelj.
Mocinic, 21, is the fourth player from the Croat squad to be forced to drop out because of injury but normally Fifa rules allow squads to replace injured players up to the eve of the kick-off of the tournament.
Croatia's best performance at a World Cup was reaching the 1998 semi-finals, but they failed to qualify in 2010.
Video: Time has come for Brazil to dream, says Neymar
(With inputs from AP and AFP)