On the strength of two goals by Neymar and a late strike by Oscar, Brazil took a 3-1 victory in the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The scoreline, however, was not nearly as convincing as it may appear. Croatia deservedly scored the first goal on an own-goal from Marcelo, which punished a Brazilian defense that had been flat-footed all match:
The goal seemed to wake Brazil up, however, with Neymar and Oscar driving the action as the home side began to push forward with a bit more enthusiasm. In the 22nd minute, Oscar hit an absolute screamer that required a brilliant save from Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa:
With Brazil putting on more pressure, Neymar finally tallied the equalizer in the 29th minute on what sure looked like a mishit. Fortunately for him, though, it appeared Pletikosa was a bit flat-footed, and was unable to reach the fortuitously-placed shot:
After an absolutely flat start to the second half in which both teams looked as if they were going through the motions for 25 minutes, Brazil brought on Bernard for the underperforming Hulk, and within a minute had created the offensive havoc that allowed for this controversial call for a foul on Fred:
An atrocious call for sure, and one that will be talked about ad nauseam in the coming days. Neymar stepped to the spot, converting the penalty despite Pletikosa somehow getting both hands on the ball:
With Croatia pressing forward late and looking dangerous, Brazil were able to counterattack and polish off the victory with this stoppage time toe poke from Oscar that again caught Pletikosa flat-footed:
And with that, Brazil took three points and got the result they needed. If you’re a pessimist, you could say that Brazil either looked vulnerable at the back and could be had in this tournament; an optimist, on the other hand, would say that despite opening match nerves Brazil beat the toughest opponent they’ll face in their group.
We’ve got three games on the schedule tomorrow, beginning with the other Group A matchup at noon with Mexico taking on Cameroon. Perhaps the most hyped game of the group stage is next, as we’ll get a rematch of the 2010 Final when Spain take on the Netherlands at 3:00. Lastly, Chile will be taking on Group B weakling Australia in the nightcap at 6:00.