The poster boy of the 2014 World Cup stole the show in the competition’s opening game as Neymar scored twice to help the hosts to a 3-1 victory over Croatia.
After months of build up it was finally time for football in front of a passionate crowd in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo. It was Croatia who took an early lead though, with just 11 minutes on the clock Brazilian defender Marcelo deflected Ivica Olic’s cross into his own net for the first goal of the tournament.
It wasn’t long until the home side were level though as Neymar’s well placed, long distance effort beat Croatia’s goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa on the half hour mark.
It could have been a very different story for the Brazilian forward on the night, minutes before he scored equaliser he escaped with just a booking when he appeared to elbow Luka Modric in the face.
Both sides threatened to take the lead but neither could find the net before the halftime whistle.
After the break came the games key incident, Brazil’s Fred went down in the box under very little pressure from Croatia’s Dejan Lovren and referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot.
The controversial penalty was taken by Neymar, Pletikosa got a hand to the spot kick but could not keep it out and Brazil took the lead after 71 minutes.
In the last 10 minutes of the game Croatia threatened to find an equaliser but their willingness to score left them exposed at the back and Brazil counter attacked and made the three points safe through a Oscar strike in the last minute.
The result puts Brazil top, and Croatia bottom, of Group A with Cameroon and Mexico in action tomorrow. WIth Neymar’s scintillating form in the opening game he is surely emerging as one of the front runners to be top scorer at this years tournament.
One thing’s for sure, while this was not a particularly impressive footballing display from the hosts there is no doubting their passion and with the home crowd behind them they will be a force to reckon with in this years World Cup.
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