Well that was an eventful first game wasn’t it?
Brazil was able to overcome a tentative start to their World Cup campaign to defeat Croatia, albeit under extremely controversial circumstances.
The hosts found themselves facing a deficit in just the 11th minute of the game after early pressure from the Croatians forced fullback Marcelo to knock the ball into his own net.
To say the Brazilians were fighting nerves in the early stages of the game would be an understatement, as they squandered possession giving their opponents multiple opportunities to hit them on the break.
But at the half hour mark Neymar, the young man whose face has been on countless commercials and billboards leading up to this massive event, came to Brazil’s rescue with this incisive strike.
Not only did that goal erase the hosts’ deficit, it also gave them life, it gave them confidence and for the rest of the half the Croatians were forced to defend wave after wave of attacks.
In the early stages of the second half the game seemed to had lost some of its verve as the Croatians were content to slow the game down and retain possession while the Brazilians appeared to run out of ideas.
Then Selecao forward Fred pulled off a major flop in the penalty box that referee Yuichi Nishimura fell for hook, line, and sinker.
Which lead to Neymar score the go-ahead goal and also his 33rd for Brazil tying him with legend Ronaldinho, all this while only being 22-years old.
Oscar, who many considered to be the Man of the Match (although the honor went to Neymar), finished off the Croatians in stoppage time to give Brazil a crucial victory in front of over 68,000 fans which all but assures that they’ll advance to the second round.
After the game the Croatian head coach was understandably furious with the sketchy penalty decision that turned the tide of the game in the host’s favor.
“If that’s a penalty, then we can just stop playing football right now,” said Croatian coach Niko Kovac, suggesting biased officiating could be a tournament long problem. “…It’s ridiculous. If we continue in this way, we will have a circus. …If that’s how we start the World Cup, then we may as well give up and go home now.”
“Put your hand up if you think it was a penalty,” Kovac said during his postgame news conference. “Two billion people [watching on television] could see it was not a penalty.”