Barcelona superstar Neymar bagged a brace as hosts Brazil beat a stubborn Croatia 3-1 in the 2014 World Cup opener in São Paulo.
Neymar, 22, equalised for Luis Filipe Scolari’s side on the 29th minute when his low scuffed shot found its way past a poor Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatian goal. Defender Marcelo had inadvertently slotted past Julio Cesar after only eleven minutes, presenting World Cup favourites with their first real test, and they past with flying colours.
Chelsea midfielder Oscar, so poor in the second half of the last Premier League season, was arguably the star of the show, running the Croatians ragged down the right hand side, and finishing off the match with a low shot in injury time; but the main talking point centered round the penalty awarded to Brazil, with the match finely balanced at one-a-piece.
Oscar’s low cross into the box was contested by Brazil striker Fred, and the Fluminense went down easily under the challenge from Dejan Lovren, with referee Yuichi Nishimura immediately pointing to the spot.
Replays suggested that contact was minimal, but Neymar was given the chance to double his tally from the spot, and did not disappoint, despite his penalty almost being saved by Pletikosa.
The Croatians battled bravely throughout, and perhaps deserved something out of the game, with Ivica Olić frustratingly penalised by Nishimura soon after the second goal after a 50-50 challenge with Ceasar, with the ensuing goal ruled out.
Oscar, who looks to be Brazil’s secret weapon, put paid to the Croatian resistance in stoppage time, but the Selecao were arguably fortunate to escape with the win, with Scolari surely eager to iron out the creases, as Croatia, who look like they could snatch a qualifying berth from Group A after an impressive performance, put up a terrific fight.
Brazil v Croatia – Match Stats
What did you think of Brazil’s opening day win against Croatia?