Thursday June 12th, 2014

As the host and heavy favorite, Brazil has all the pressure, while Croatia has none as World Cup 2014 kicks off Thursday.

Will that matter in the Group A opener, and is there value in betting Croatia to pull a massive Day 1 upset at 10-1 odds?

Hosting its first World Cup since losing to Uruguay in the final in 1950, Brazil has been waiting for a chance at redemption for 64 years.

The Brazilians have all of the pieces in place to make a run at the World Cup that the country craves; a talented young team leader in Neymar, a passionate nation of fans behind it and a team that enters the tournament in good form. Brazil is a 3/1 favorite to win the World Cup.

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While it is a well-known fact that the host country gets a huge boost from fan support, it hasn't actually produced many results in recent years. Since 1974 and 1978 when West Germany and Argentina, respectively, won the World Cup as host countries in back-to-back tournaments, only one host country has advanced to the final -- France, which won the World Cup in 1998.

Brazil's World Cup journey begins Thursday as a -375 favorite to win against Croatia, according to Croatia is going off at +1000 to pull off the dramatic upset and +475 to steal a draw. The total is set at 2.5 goals, with the Under slightly favored at -120 over the Over (+100).

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Brazil is a heavy favorite to win Group A, entering Thursday's action as a -500 chalk to do so. Much of the debate surrounding this group is which will be the second team to advance: Croatia or Mexico?

Croatia is a +800 longshot to win the group while Mexico is +900. Croatia is a +100 bet to advance to the knockout stage and -130 to be knocked out in the group stage.

Croatia's strategy will undoubtedly be to put defense first and try to produce offense on the counter-attack. Considering that goal differential is one of the key tiebreakers in group stage play, Croatia can't afford to try to play a run-and-gun style against a clearly superior Brazilian squad.

This is especially true with striker Mario Mandzukic not in the game due to a suspension. Croatia will try to steal a draw but at the very least hope to limit the damage.

This potential strategy makes the two-way line on this game interesting with Brazil a -1.5 goal favorite at +100 and Croatia at +1.5  at -120. If Croatia is able to limit Brazil's attack or grab a goal on a counter, the +1.5 could be a good bet and is certainly a much more realistic one than taking the team to upset Brazil outright.

From a Brazil backer's perspective, Croatia isn't known as a total shutdown team, and a 2-0 type of victory seems reasonable and would provide a nice spread payout at +100.

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