Brazil 3 Croatia 1 – Neymar at the double for lucky hosts
Croatia take the lead in Sao Paulo before the referee awards a soft penalty to Brazil
June 12th, 2014
The 2014 World Cup is off and running, with Brazil claiming a curtain-raising victory after the hosts came from behind to beat an organised Croatia team.
There was little between the teams over the ninety minutes, with Niko Kovač’s team enjoying the brighter start and Ivica Olic should have got his header on target before the Croatians took an early lead.
The ball was whipped across from the left by Olic and David Luiz swung a foot at the ball before Marcelo turned the ball into his own net. The home crowd and a nation were stunned, with Brazil looking decidedly nervy.
Indeed, this isn’t looking like a vintage Brazilian side and it took some magic from Neymar to bring the hosts level, with the Barcelona forward finding some space and advancing towards the penalty area before slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
The home fans sensed the tide was turning, although Hulk and Fred struggled to make an impact on the game, while Tottenham’s Paulinho was also decidedly ordinary. Thankfully for the Brazilians, Oscar was having a fine game.
Even so, Luka Modric was ensuring that Croatia kept the ball well and the second half was devoid of any clear-cut chances until the referee inexplicably pointed to the spot in the 71st minute.
Fred was going nowhere with his back to goal and Dejan Lovren’s innocuous hand on the forward’s shoulder saw the Fluminese forward tumble to the ground. Neymar was the welcome recipient of the spot kick although Stipe Pletikosa should have kept the ball out.
Croatia poured forward in search of an equaliser and some last-ditch defending was required, with Julio Cesar scrambling around his six-yard box to keep his opponents at bay.
With minutes left on the clock, Oscar managed to break through and produce an exquisite finish to win the game 3-1 for Brazil, although there are plenty of question marks over the hosts judging by this performance.