Chelsea target squeezes into our Brazil v Croatia Mix n Match
It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! All around the globe football fans are losing their decorum over the start of the World Cup, and rather a lot is expected of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia.
The hosts and 3/1 favourites to win the tournament are warm fancies at 1/3 to beat Niko Kovac’s smart side, with Ladbrokes’ price-boosted 2/5 odds about the Selecao in a five-fold sure to feature in many an opening-fixture acca.
Our Brazil/Croatia Mix n Match reflects this betting supremacy, although it’s not quite a Canarinho clean-sweep.
In goal, former Spurs benchwarmer Stipe Pletikosa has to make way for QPR’s Julio Cesar, whose 2012/13 heroics wasn’t enough to keep the chaotic west Londoners in the Premier League.
The 34-year-old hasn’t togged out for the R’s since, with seven appearances on loan at Toronto FC the sum total of his 2013/14 efforts, but that hasn’t affected his standing with Luiz Felipe Scolari, and that’s good enough for us.
In defence, the only spot up for credible discussion is next to Thiago Silva at centre-half, with Dani Alves and Marcelo unopposable at right and left full-back ahead of Darijo Srna and Sime Vrsaljko.
It’s tempting to throw in wantaway Southampton star Dejan Lovren, but Luiz’s superiority with the ball at his feet gets the soon-to-be PSG yellow-card collector in alongside his defensively-sound compatriot.
Luis Gustavo has held on to his Selecao holding-midfield role despite swapping Bayern Munich for less-glamorous Wolfsburg ten months ago, and the only real opposition for his place in our team comes from within Brazil’s ranks, in the form of Manchester City’s Fernandinho.
However, we can’t have reported Chelsea target Paulinho or Blues favourite Oscar after their middling campaigns, especially with Real Madrid spray-about king Luka Modric – who’s thought to be on old boss Jose Mourinho’s summer transfer radar – available for the red and white squares.
He’s joined in midfield by Barcelona-bound fellow Croatian Ivan Rakitic, whose marvellous 2013/14 term with Sevilla culminated in a Europa League winners’ medal and man-of-the-match gong in the final.
Neymar will line up in the number 10 role in Sao Paulo, but Brazil’s latest superstar doesn’t fool us.
He’s a winger and we’ve stuck him on the left-side opposite Hulk (pronounced ‘Hulky’), from where he can cut inside and feed Fred (pronounced ‘Fredji’), who gets in without a fight thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s suspension.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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