Two goals from Barcelona forward Neymar ensured Brasil’s win against Croatia in the opening match of World Cup 2014.
Following a splendid opening ceremony, the World Cup was kicked off in Brazil yesterday and the opening game between the host nation and Croatia set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
Brasil were the favourites heading into this game, but Croatia are no pushovers and it them who took the lead in the 11th minute of the match to silence the home crowd. Ivica Olic delivered a low cross into the box from the left, after a good run down that wing, and Nikica Jelavic failed to get a clean contact with the ball inside the box. But the Croatian striker provided enough deflection to catch Marcelo off-guard and the Real Madrid left back turned it into his own net. It was deserved lead for Croatia, who made an impressive start to the game.
Brazil pushed hard for an equalizer after that goal and the poster boy of Brazilian football provided it in the 29th minute. The Barcelona forward drove at Croatia’s defence, after some good work by Oscar in the midfield, and his low shot from outside the box crept in off the post in the far corner. The home crowd erupted with that strike as Neymar announced his arrival in the big stage.
Both the teams failed were locked at 1-1 for a long period after this, before a controversial refereeing decision turned the match in Brazil’s favour. Brazilian striker Fred went down in the box under pressure from Southampton defender Dejan Lovren and the referee awarded a penalty kick to the home side. However, replay showed that Fred made most of the situation and it was a harsh decision for Croatia.
Who else but Neymar stood up to take the resultant penalty and he managed to score despite Stipe Pletikosa getting a hand to the ball. The Croatian goalkeeper would be disappointed that he felt to keep it out despite having the ball within his grasp. Neymar though, ran towards the jubilant fans as he provided the lead to Brasil and completed the comeback.
Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who produced a wonderful performance in the midfield and was Brazil’s best player on the pitch, added the icing on the cake in drying moments of the match as he scored Brasil’s third goal with a lovely finish.
Brazil are off to a good start, but Croatia will feel hard done by and the score line didn’t reflect the story of the game. They were also denied a goal when Olic was deemed to have fouled Julio Cesar, and the questionable penalty call turned the match in Brazil’s favour.
Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari has however insisted that the referee made the right call.
“Thousands didn’t see the penalty? The referee saw it and he is the one that decides. We also think it was a penalty.
“I watched it 10 times and, for me, it was a penalty.” – Scolari said.
Despite the win, Brazil looked shaky at times, especially in defence, but Scolari refused to publicly dissect his team’s performance. He said: “I’ll tell the players first what I didn’t like, not you”.
Scolari was full of praise for Chelsea midfielder Oscar, he also believes that Croatia will advance from this group after their showing last night.
“He (Oscar) is this player we all know, I had no doubts. He is wonderful, excellent.
“If I could bet who will advance in this group, I would bet on Croatia.” – He added.