Neymar inspires Brazil victory

by | Jun 12, 2014 22:57

Neymar bagged a brace – including a controversial penalty – as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 despite a Marcelo own goal.

The tournament kicked off in Sao Paulo with a stunning atmosphere, as the crowd sang the national anthem long after the music had faded and ex-Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar was in tears.

Neymar bagged a brace – including a controversial penalty – as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 despite a Marcelo own goal.

The tournament kicked off in Sao Paulo with a stunning atmosphere, as the crowd sang the national anthem long after the music had faded and ex-Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar was in tears.

Croatia had two Serie A players in the starting XI: Inter’s 20-year-old midfielder Mateo Kovacic and Genoa defender Sime Vrsaljko, while Mario Mandzukic was suspended and Danijel Pranjic injured.

Ivica Olic had the first real chance, his header skimming the back post from an Ivan Perisic cross, but the Selecao did not heed the warning.

Marcelo accidentally prodded the ball in from six yards after Nikica Jelavic only flicked a low Olic cross from the left.

Incredibly, this was the first time in history that the opening strike of a World Cup was an own goal and also the first Brazilian own goal in this competition.

Stipe Pletikosa beat away efforts from Paulinho and Oscar, but Julio Cesar also plucked a Jelavic header out of the air.

Neymar was the man Brazil fans were waiting for in this tournament and he received a yellow card for an elbow, then moments later got the equaliser. It was a daisy-cutter in off the inside of the far post, the Barcelona star’s 32nd goal in just 50 caps.

Neymar also saw a free kick deflected on the wall, as the Japanese referee became the first in a World Cup to use the new ‘vanishing spray’ to ensure defenders keep their distance.

The second half took a while to get into gear and Croatia replaced Inter talent Kovacic, while his club teammate Hernanes was introduced for Brazil.

The Europeans lost possession in midfield for a dangerous counter, but Vedran Corluka took one for the team with a bookable tackle on Neymar.

The referee pointed to the spot for a soft penalty, as Fred seemed to lose his balance as he tried to turn Dejan Lovren. Neymar had a stuttering run-up and it did not fool Pletikosa, but the goalkeeper was unable to keep the spot-kick out despite getting both hands to it.

David Luiz went close to making it 3-1, but his diving free header was off target from Oscar’s cross, which had been curling its way towards Neymar behind him.

Croatia did get the ball in the back of the net, but play had already been stopped for a debatable Olic nudge on Julio Cesar. The ex-Inter goalkeeper got down well to palm a Luka Modric effort round the post, Corluka nodded a free kick just wide and Brozovic saw his attempt desperately charged down by David Luiz.

However, just as Croatia were piling on the pressure, Oscar shot from distance on the counter to surprise Pletikosa and secure a Selecao victory.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia

Scorers: Marcelo og 11 (C), Neymar 29, pen 71 (B), Oscar 91 (B)

Brazil: Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho (Hernanes 63); Hulk, Oscar, Hulk (Bernard 68), Neymar (Ramires 88); Fred

Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Rakitic, Modric; Olic, Kovacic (Brozovic 61), Perisic; Jelavic (Rebic 78)

Ref: Nishimura (JPN)

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