Brazil 3-1 Croatia
Goals: Marcelo (og) 11′ Neymar 29′ 71′ Oscar 91′
I could feel the electrifying atmosphere in Sao Paulo, all the way from Johannesburg. The Brazilians walked out arm-to-shoulder as a sign of unity. I’m not Brazilian, but the national anthem gave me goosebumps, to see players singing their national anthem with such pride and passion is a rarity in this game. Coaches these days are even resorting to ordering players to sing their national anthem (I kid you not!)
A Good Effort from Croatia
If you did not watch the match, don’t be fooled by the scoreline. Right from kickoff Croatia were on the Brazilians heels. Brazil failed to settle in the opening minutes and were pushed by Ivan Perisic and Olic. It was not long before the ball saw the back of the net, but it came in the form of an own goal from Marcelo. The Brazilian defense looked shaky, with stars like Marcelo, David Luiz & Thiago Silva, I honestly expected more solidity from the back line. As the game wore on, Brazil settled in, got control of possession and started creating more chances.
A change of Tactics
What was interesting to note, Oscar was deployed to the right (as opposed to his usual central position) and Hulk down the left. Neymar was played more central behind Fred. This was crucial as Oscar tore down that right side and this also gave enough room for Neymar. The Barcelona star equalized with a far range beauty of a shot.
A minor tussle between Fred and Lovren (in which Fred went down way too easily) saw a penalty put Brazil ahead. Whether you’re a Brazil fan or not, you have to admit the penalty was a bad decision. It was the culmination of a night of bad refereeing. It seemed every time a Brazilian took to the ground, a free kick was awarded. What was conspicuous was that the playing fields were not even. If Lovren conceded a penalty, then by those standards Neymar should have been red carded for elbowing Modric. Whether the ref Yuichi Nishimura couldn’t handle the pressure of an opening game and the home support, thats still up for question. Of course the Croatians were upset, calling for the Brazilians to just be handed the World Cup.