Who? Brazil - Croatia
Where? Anfield, Liverpool
When? June 3, 1600 (CET local time)
Brazil (Vitor Buratini Mendes)
In 2014, Brazil hosted the World Cup. The expectations were huge. Many believed that it would be the year that the “Seleção canarinho” will win its sixth title of the biggest soccer tournament in the world. However, the first minutes of the Brazil national team were not the best: in the 11th minute, Marcelo scored an own goal and began the scoring for the Croatian team. Brazil managed to win the game, however, this could already be a sign for the future in this tournament, that will be end with one of the biggest humiliations in football history.
Marcelo scored the only own goal of Brazil in the history of the World Cup. A terrible achievement that affect a player and even finish his part in national team. Coach Dunga, who came after Felipão's resignation, did not call up Marcelo. Furthermore, he was left out of the 2016 Copa América squad. After Dunga's failure, Tite was hired as the new coach to save the team and make it to the World Cup. One of his first steps was to get Marcelo back to the team.
Four years later, Marcelo has evolved a lot. At that time, he was already one of the best left backs of the world and today he may be considered as one of the best in history. He was very important this season, including two assists at the Champions League final and scoring important goals throughout the knockout stage against Bayern, Juventus and PSG.
Brazil's journey begins today in the friendly against Croatia. After all, it's the time to see whether Marcelo let behind the ghost of the own goal from 2014. Who know, maybe this time he would not score for Brazil?
Croatia (Eden Roitfarb)
Since becoming an independent country, the Croatian national team has qualified to 10 out of 12 possible major tournaments. Despite being a small and a relatively young country, Croatia are a very experienced and dangerous side. More than half of the Croatian squad from 2014 has been named in the preliminary squad for the 2018 World Cup - that includes include Champions League winners Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić, alongside runner up Dejan Lovren and other household names such as Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandžukić.
Having been drawn in Group D alongside Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland - undoubtedly a top candidate for the “Group of Death” this tournament, Zlatko Dalic’s men would need to step up their game in order to advance through, in contrast to the big disappointment from the 2014 World Cup where the Balkan side failed to advance from the group stage.
Speaking of which, there is a familiar opponent ahead. Croatia will face Brazil on Sunday, in a rematch of the opening game from 4 years ago. The Seleção, won 3-1 that day in São Paulo, but the Croatians still feel injustice was done due to some questionable officiating. The game in Anfield might be less meaningful and fiery but serves as an important preparation for both teams. The Vatreni view Brazil as an opponent that most resemble South American powerhouse Argentina. Likewise, their next friendly will be against Senegal, who will take the role of fellow Africans Nigeria. And what about Iceland? Well, these two sides are familiar enough with each other after facing off twice in the qualifiers.
As Lovren will be able to testify, Anfield is one of the most unique stadiums in the world - and with all the big names both sides have to offer, we can expect a great afternoon of football.