Host country and a tournament favorite Brazil kicked off the 2014 World Cup against Croatia today. Brazil didn’t play great, but they did play well enough to win. Of course, the win didn’t come without a little controversy.
Despite trailing early from an own goal by Marcelo, Brazil managed to score the next three goals as well, eventually winning the opening match 3-1, picking up 3 points in Group A play.
Brazil came out sluggish and their forwards barely touched the ball in the first 15 minutes of action. Croatia came out hungry and had a few shots in the opening mintues.
Croatia used the flanks to push the attack forward, looking to cross the ball into the penalty area hoping to get a goal. What they got was a cross by Ivica Olic from the left wing that skipped through the Brazilian defenders who failed to mark the runners on the far side. Croatian forward Nikica Jelavic got the slightest of touches on the ball which led to Marcelo not getting a clean touch to clear the ball out of danger and instead, Marcelo put the ball in the back of his own net giving Croatia a stunning 1-0 lead only 11 mintues in the 1st half.
Despite the lack of energy early, Brazil continued to create attacking opportunities and eventually struck in the 29th mintue with a goal from poster boy Neymar. A loose ball in the midfield was picked up by Oscar who put it forward to Neymar who turned and found a small window to shoot. The shot was not with much power, but with accuracy and crawled into the back of the net after hitting the far post, just out of goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa outreached hand.
The action picked up in the 2nd half and it seemed as if Croatia would be content with earning a point for the tie. There was no real attack by the Croatian side in the 2nd half. This led to Brazil buidling a good rhythm playing from the backline, to midfield to the forwards.
Hernanes was subbed in at the ’63 minute for Hulk who was quiet in the 1st half. Hernanes provided a spark in the 2nd half, but it would be a controversial penalty given to Brazil that would change the complexity of the game.
Brazilian forward Fred, looked like he was fouled in the penalty box in the ’68th minute, however replay showed that it was probably a flop. Regardless, Neymar would step up to take the PK and despite a valiant attempt by Croatian GK Pletikosa to block the shot the ball went in putting Brazil up 2-1.
Brazil would capture the final goal of the game in stoppage time as Oscar was able to beat 3 Croatian players by himself and toe poked a shot past Pletikosa for a 3-1 Brazil win and earning the 3 points in group play.
Next up for Brazil is Mexico on 6/17.
Croatia will play Cameroon on 6/18.