Ready: Brazil defender Dani Alves. *AFP photo
Ready: Brazil defender Dani Alves. *AFP photo

For millions of Brazilians — not to mention football fans around the world — the wait is now almost over.

The host nation are favourites and support for the team has grown as the big kick-off has edged closer — despite protests over the amount of money the country has spent on staging the tournament.

Brazil take on Croatia tomorrow in Sao Paulo (5pm) in front of an expectant nation and, after a lukewarm reaction to recent warm-up games, right-back Dani Alves says tomorrow night is all that matters.

He told reporters in Brazil: “The moment of truth is starting now.

“It’s not just about three points, it should also send a message to future rivals. I think it’s the most important game of the World Cup, along with the final.” 

He added: “Because we’re playing at home, I’m certain the people will be on our side. That will confirm that the Brazilian team is the favourite.”

The build-up to the event has been marred by demonstrations and anger by people who feel that the money ploughed into the World Cup should have been spent in other areas of the country.

But Alves believes the joy the month’s feast of football will bring will outweigh the troubles.

“For us it’s a gift to see the fans, our people, now understand that the Cup has arrived in Brazil and it’s going to be an amazing moment,” said Alves.

“I know it is difficult sometimes for us to set aside the situation our country is in but the world is going to be here and they deserve a real Brazilian reception.”

Meanwhile, Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella says star player Lionel Messi’s habit of throwing up on the pitch is down to anxiety.

“Nerves. I reckon that in these moments there is anxiety more than anything,” Sabella said. “It’s difficult to remain calm.”

Messi scored against Slovenia on Saturday, scoring Argentina’s second just after TV cameras showed him dry-heaving and receiving a tablet from the bench.

“I don’t know what it is. But I had a thousand exams,” Messi told TyC Sports.  “I start to feel nauseous to the point where I almost vomit, and then it goes away.” 

Messi has often been accused of not trying hard enough for his country, which he admits affects him.

“Argentina is my country, my family, my way of expressing myself. I would change all my record to make the people in my country happy.” 

Group stage schedule (Bermuda times)

Thursday

5pm Group A

Brazil v Croatia

Friday

1pm Group A

Mexico v Cameroon

4pm Group B

Spain v Holland

7pm Group B

Chile v Australia

Saturday

1pm Group C

Colombia v Greece

4pm Group D

Uruguay v Costa Rica

7pm Group D

England v Italy

10pm Group C

Ivory Coast v Japan

Sunday

1pm Group E

Switzerland v Ecuador

4pm Group E

France v Honduras

7pm Group F

Argentina v Bosnia & Herzegovina

Monday

1pm Group G

Germany v Portugal

4pm Group F

Iran v Nigeria

7pm Group G

Ghana v USA

Tuesday

1pm Group H

Belgium v Algeria

4pm Group A

Brazil v Mexico

7pm Group H

Russia v Korea Republic

Wednesday (June 18)

1pm Group B

Australia v Holland

4pm Group B

Spain v Chile

7pm Group A

Cameroon v Croatia

Thursday

1pm Group C

Colombia v Ivory Coast

4pm Group D

Uruguay v England

7pm Group C

Japan v Greece

Friday

1pm Group D

Italy v Costa Rica

4pm Group E

Switzerland v France

7pm Group E

Honduras v Ecuador

Saturday

1pm Group F

Argentina v Iran

4pm Group G

Germany v Ghana

7pm Group F

Nigeria v Bosnia & Herzegovina

Sunday

1pm Group H

Belgium v Russia 

4pm Group H

Korea Republic v Algeria

7pm Group G

USA v Portugal

Monday

1pm Group B

Holland v Chile

Australia v Spain

5pm Group A

Cameroon v Brazil

Croatia v Mexico

Tuesday

1pm Group D

Italy v Uruguay

Costa Rica v England

5pm Group C

Japan v Colombia

Greece v Ivory Coast

Wednesday (June 25)

1pm Group F 

Nigeria v Argentina 

Bosnia & Herzegovina v Iran

5pm Group E

Honduras v Switzerland

Ecuador v France

Thursday

1pm Group G

Portugal v Ghana

USA v Germany

5pm Group H

Korea Republic v Belgium

Algeria v Russia