You can hardly say the opening game didn’t deliver the drama it promised. Brazil came through an early scare to win with a flattering scoreline of 3-1, but I think it’s safe to say that Croatia will feel the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Opening ceremony as full of noise and colour but, like Brazil’s early play, lacked real quality and finesse. But it was a perfect atmosphere builder and the crowd were at full noise level as the teams made their way on to the pitch, safe in the knowledge that the host nation had never lost the opening tie before.
Brazil, and Marcelo in particular, seemed determined to put that stat to a stern test when the Madrid defender turned a Croatian cross on 11 minutes to put the hosts 1-0 down. I’ve seen a goal send an entire stadium delirious before, but never before have I seen a goal cause an entire stadium to let out an exasperated gasp followed by almost deafening silence. Marcelo must have wanted the ground to swallow him up as an entire nation watched his mistake replayed again and again on spectator screens across the country.
Brazil survived further heartbreak after Neymar appeared to raise his arm to Croatia’s Luka Modric, but escaped with only a yellow card. BBC pundit Alan Shearer felt that Neymar was lucky to stay on the pitch, and looking at replays which suggest Neymar looked towards Modric before raising his arms suggest likewise.
Croatia would have still been crying for Neymar to see red when he took control of the ball in midfield and fired Brazil’s equaliser in off the post to reignite the hopes of a nation, although he did appear to scuff his shot. The fans didnt care at all, and the first half finished 1-1.
Croatia never seemed out of the game, and looked very dangerous on the break with Jelavic and Olic heading up their strike-force. However the next incident of note fell on 69 minutes, and it was another controversial decision.
Brzilian striker Fred appeared to lose his footing in the box as he struggled to control the ball under pressure from Lovren, and fell to the ground. There seemed to be minimal contact at best and the Croatia team were furious as the Japanese referee pointed to the spot. Neymar duly converted his second goal as he squeezed his penalty past the outstretched arm of the Croatian keeper.
Brazil never looked back and continued to press until Oscar sealed the win in the dying minutes with a toe poked finish on the break, to send an entire nation into uproar. This was the finish each and every one of them had imagined.
With the opening day done, keep an eye out for more previews and World Cup roundups, because if each game is as interesting as this you can be sure we will have a lot to talk about.