SALVADOR - In times of tribulation, some turn to religion.
Others turn to meditation -- or protest, as is the case here in Salvador.
The Croats, who open Thursday's World Cup against Brazil in Sao Paulo, turn to Davor Suker -- the Croatian Pele, if you will.
The God-like figure from the Balkans, who claimed the Golden Boot at the 1998 tournament, pretty much agrees with the rest of the world.
"(Brazil) has a couple of players who could each score a hat trick against us," Suker told ESPN this week in Rio de Janeiro.
So much for consolation.
Then again, that has bizarrely been the theme of this World Cup during the build-up.
American bench boss Jurgen Klinsmann has repeatedly said it's "unrealistic" to think the U.S. can venture deep in the tournament.
Suker, now the president of the Croatian Football Federation, stopped short of saying he expects Croatia to have the same success in 2014 that it had two decades ago, when he helped the Adriatic nation make a semifinal.
"Listen, Brazil are huge favourites," Suker started, "but our main mission is to try to break down Brazil's rhythm and make them feel a little uncomfortable on the pitch."
Maybe Croatians should turn to someone, or something else, for solace next time.
Suker didn't exactly inspire confidence.
Then again, who could blame him?
Firstly, the Brazilians are stacked. You don't need me to go over their roster.
Additionally, Croatia enters the tournament without Mario Mandzukic (suspension), who has scored a lot of goals playing at the highest level for Bayern Munich.
Finally, veteran defender Josip Simunic has been banned from the tournament after being accused of proliferating racism following a World Cup qualifier.
"(Brazil) will have problems if they approach this game thinking it will be an easy one," Suker reiterated at a press conference.
Even then, however, the Brazilians will still win.
If they don't, as I mentioned off the top, we might be in biblical tribulation.
But I digress.
Hours before first kick, Brazilians housed in the wealthy tourist area here in Salvador were clad in yellow in anticipation while bar owners were still installing TVs prior to a day when time will seemingly stand still for 90 minutes.
Yes, like the country's World Cup organizers, even the populous appears to be running behind schedule along the country's northern coast.
Nonetheless, it's here. And a public service announcement went out Wednesday from the man that holds the highest position in the land.
"To all Brazilians I want to tell you the time has arrived," Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "This is our World Cup.
"The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup."
Although none of those steps come through Salvador, you'd think the hosts were playing the opener at the Arena Fonte Nova here Thursday.
The fact four of the best teams in the world -- the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Portugal -- are meeting here later this week doesn't seem to matter to the citizenry.
For instance, a fellow bar patron saw my media credential earlier this week. But when he found out I was only covering a repeat of the 2010 final, he became less interested.
Because, you know, the Brazil games are the only ones that matter here, which I guess falls in line with what the country's national team coach indicated Wednesday.
Once again: "This is (Brazil's) World Cup."
Salvador knows it.
Scolari knows it.
A Croatian legend seemed to indicate it.
And a few other national team coaches have already admitted it.
It's hard not to admit it when you consider this is a Brazil side that has lost just once -- on an own goal against Switzerland --- in its last 20-plus games. And the fact this is the same Brazil team that made Spain look pedestrian less than a year ago.
Because of that, maybe it's not all that surprising everyone here is only interested in watching one team, no matter what matches take place at their local venue down the road.
Like religion, Brazil's national team is all some people in Salvador say they have.
Croatia, U.S. coaches not pumping up their teams
SALVADOR, Brazil -- There's playing down expectations.
Then there's completely throwing your team under the bus.
While Croatian team president Davor Suker lacked clarity when asked if his team would find the same success it did at the 1998 tournament, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann won't stop telling his players they're losers.
"You have to be realistic," he said at a Wednesday press conference.
For some, more surprising is the fact Klinsmann left former 2010 World Cup hero Landon Donovan off his 23-man roster.
So, in an ingenious move, ESPN added Donovan to its World Cup roster a day before the tournament opens.
First on-air ESPN question to the former U.S. star: What do you think of Klinsmann writing off your teammates?
"This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don't agree with Jurgen," Donovan told ESPN. "And as someone who has been in that locker room and has sat next to the players, we agree with the (American fans). We believe that we will win. I think that's the way Americans think and I think that's the sentiment."
Deep down, most probably agree with Klinsmann.
They just won't admit it.
KURT SAYS: Brazil 4 Croatia 1
The hosts are better all over the park. Croatian sensation Luka Modric can't play all 11 positions.