Neymar was the star of the show as Brazil came from behind to secure a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Croatia in the opening match of the FIFA World Cup™. The hosts’ star No10 equalised after Marcelo’s own-goal, and converted a second-half penalty after Fred had been fouled by Dejan Lovren.
Croatia had the ball in the net before the end of the game, but Ivica Olic was adjudged to have fouled Julio Cesar in the build-up, and Oscar made sure of the victory late on.
The opening goal of the 2014 World Cup was remarkable in itself, the first own-goal scored by a Brazilian in the history of the tournament. Ivica Olic received the ball on the Croatia left and ran unopposed into the Brazilian half. His low cross fizzed across goal and was turned in by Marcelo, who failed to readjust his feet in time. Ivan Perisic was ready to pounce if the Real Madrid man had not made the final touch.
The crowd were stunned, but they rallied behind their side, who were level before the half-hour mark. Oscar worked hard to regain possession for Brazil in the middle of the park, before passing the ball to Neymar. The Barça man skipped free of a Perisic challenge, steadied himself, and fired hard and low with his left foot across Pletikosa. The ball rebounded off the post, nestled into the back of the Croatia net and the Arena de Sao Paulo erupted.
The remainder of the first half saw Brazil dominate possession, with Croatia looking dangerous on the counter-attack.
After more Seleção pressure in the second-half, the hosts went ahead. The ball was played into the box towards Fred, who tried to swivel to hit it towards goal. He was impeded by Lovren and the referee pointed to the spot. Neymar stepped up, delayed his run-up, and hit hard to Pletikosa’s right-hand side. Croatia’s No1 got a hand to it, but could not stop it putting Brazil ahead.
Despite a valiant effort by Croatia, including their disallowed goal, Brazil wrapped up the three points when Oscar fired home from the edge of the box. (fifacom)