BRAZIL 3-1 CROATIA
THURSDAY 12TH JUNE – SAO PAULO
Following a demonstration-filled troublesome day in Sao Paulo off the pitch, Neymar gave the Brazilian fans something to cheer about scoring twice in a 3-1 opening win over Croatia. Although some bad referee decisions and bad goalkeeping helped the five-time champions on the way.
The opening goal of the tournament came on 11 minutes after a bright start from Croatia. Minutes after Ivica Olić came close with a header, Nickla Jelavić side footed the ball across goal for the unfortunate Marcelo to bundle the ball over the line, although Ivan Perisic was ready at the back post to tap home anyways. This was the first own-goal scored by a Brazilian in the history of the World Cup.
The goal did not silence the Sao Paulo crowd but encouraged them to spur the host side on. The yellow shirts swarmed over the ball and forced Croatian ‘keeper Stipe Pletikosa into good saves looking for the equaliser.
A minute after he could have been dismissed for a raised arm on Luka Modric, Neymar grabbed the levelling goal. Oscar skipped past two challenges in middle then finding the marauding Neymar in the middle and the Barca man, celebrating his 50th cap for Brazil, scuffed a shot from outside the area which Pletikosa should have saved as the ball trickled in off the post. The 62,103 fans in the arena erupted and the World Cup had officially began for the host nation.
The player returned after the interval and Brazil probed and would not let the Croatians out of their half. However, the five-time champions were unable to open up their opponents since the break. With Croatians barely troubled, it took a soft penalty decision to give Brazil the lead. On 70 minutes, Southampton’s Dejan Lovren and Fred tussled in the area and the Brazilian striker threw himself down to the ground and the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded the dubious spot kick.
Neymar stepped up to take the penalty which Pletikosa got two hands to the ball but could only push it into the net. Once again, the stadium exploded into rapture as the Croatian goalkeeper was livid with himself up for not stopping the shot. Nevertheless, this was 22-year-old Neymar’s 33rd goal in just 50 appearances for his country.
The Croatians had the ball in the net soon after but Olić was adjudged to have fouled Julio Cesar in the build-up and as Kovac’s side pressed for the equaliser they came close with two long drives that Julio Cesar could not hold. However, it would be the hosts who killed the game off. Oscar, impressive all night, hit a toe-poking effort towards goal and once again Pletikosa should have got across to save but failed miserably. The Chelsea man deserved his goal and it cemented the points for the fortunate Brazil.
The valiant Croatian side will feel angry but they must move on to face Cameroon on Wednesday in Manaus while the Brazilians face Mexico in Fortaleza on Tuesday.
BRAZIL: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho (Hernanes 63), Oscar, Luis Gustavo, Hulk (Bernard 68), Neymar (Ramires 88), Fred.
GOALS: Neymar 29, 71P, Oscar 90+1
BOOKINGS: Neymar 27, Luis Gustavo 88.
CROATIA: Pletikosa, Srna, Vrsaljko, Perišić, Corluka, Lovren, Modrić, Kovaĉić (Brozovic 61), Rakitić, Olić, Jelavić (Rebic 78).
GOALS: Marcelo 11OG.
BOOKINGS: Corluka 66, Lovren 69.
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