It is finally here - the most anticipated sporting event of the past four year is finally upon us, and the entire globe will be tuning in to what unfolds on the fields of Brazil, as 32 nations will fight for international football's biggest prize. The players will take to the pitch, not for their club, not playing for a bigger contract or personal glory - for the next month, they are playing for pride, for their teammates, for love of country.
The host Brazilians will look to make amends for 64 years of heartache, as Seleção will look to win the first World Cup held on Brazilian soil since the disaster loss in the 1950 World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro. The German machine will look to capitalize on the deepest and most talented roster they've assembled in over a decade, while the La Albiceleste of Argentina will pin their hopes and dreams on the most talented group of attacking talent assembled led by Lionel Messi, while current Ballon d'Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo looks to captain his Portugal side to their first major international trophy to put together the best possible season for a footballer ever, following his Champions League victory with Real Madrid. The crafty Italians, the hungry Uruguayans led by Liverpool front-man Luis Suarez, and the Dutch Oranje led by Robin van Persie will look to make it a difficult road for the host Brazilians.
It all begins today, with the Seleção of Brazil taking on Luka Modric and Croatia at 1 p.m. PST in São Paulo. The Brazilians are expected to start a strong core in the center of the park, with David Luiz pairing his new PSG teammate Thiago Silva in the center of the defense, while Luis Gustavo is expected to be joined by either Tottenham's Paulinho or Chelsea's Ramires in the center of the midfield as a pair of holding midfielders. The newest poster boy for Seleção, Barcelona winger Neymar is expected to start on the left wing, with Real Madrid left-back Marcelo lining up behind him.
For the Croatians, Luka Modric is sure to start in the center of the midfield with in-form midfielder Ivan Rakitic playing on top of Modric to form one of the most dynamic midfield pairings in the entire tournament, but will miss out on starting striker Mario Mandzukic due to a one-game suspension. Croatia will have its work cut out as the Brazilians will be riding the hopes of an entire host nation. For a complete preview, you can check out SBN's entire World Cup preview, and a Brazil-Croatia preview by Callum Hamiltion of The Busby Babe (SBN's Manchester United blog).
Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. PST and will be broadcast live on ESPN. This is your World Cup opening match open thread, so fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in and as we get this global party underway.