SAO PAULO (AP) — A confident Croatia is ready to spoil Brazil's party in their World Cup opener and continue a long tradition of first match upsets at the tournament.
With all the pressure on the host team, Croatia coach Niko Kovac said Wednesday that his team can deliver a "historic result" in Thursday's match in Sao Paulo.
Kovac acknowledged that Brazil is the clear favorite in the Group A game, but added that few teams would like to face his squad either.
"They are not going to have it easy against Croatia," he said at Itaquerao Stadium. "We are a tricky side and I am sure that we will show that and demonstrate that tomorrow."
Even a draw would significantly enhance Croatia's chances of advancing from a group that also includes Mexico and Cameroon.
It would also deliver a blow to Brazil — a clear tournament favorite — and join the list of opening game upsets that include Belgium's defeat of defending champion Argentina in 1982 and holder Italy being held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria four years later. Cameroon then defeated defending champion Argentina in 1990 while reigning champion France lost in 2002 to a Senegal side making its first appearance at the World Cup.
"I am sure and convinced that tomorrow this team can create a historic result," Kovac said.
The team has surprised before.
Back in 1998, no one believed that Croatia — still recovering from a bloody civil war in the Balkans in the early 1990s — could possibly finish third in its maiden World Cup. But with Real Madrid striker Davor Suker leading the way, it did.
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