neymar goal brazil croatia june 2014

Brazil was finally able to take the wrapper off of its new toys on Thursday afternoon as the home squad kicked off the 2014 World Cup against Croatia in Sao Paulo

Delayed construction and protests dominated much of the conversation about the World Cup leading up to today. Now that the games have started, hopefully the contest can do what sport in general is supposed to do, provide a distraction from everyday worries and unite fans under a single cause if but for a fleeting couple of weeks.

The home team got off to a rather mortifying start when Croatia’s Nikica Jelavic whiffed on an excellent cross by Ivica Olic and the ball bounced off the outstretched foot of Brazilian defender Marcelo. Any own goal is embarrassing, but to do it on home soil, in the opening game of the World Cup makes it that much worse.

No host country has ever lost an opening match and now in the 11th minute the Brazilians already had a hole to climb out from. Brazil played with more spark after the goal, gaining quality chances from Oscar and their superstar Neymar.

The pace of the attack finally wore down the Croatian defense and Neymar connected on a strike from outside the top of the penalty area to tie the game at one goal apiece in the 29th minute.

The men in the gold shirts controlled ball thereafter and were quick on the counter attack when Croatia did get the ball in the final third of the field.

After halftime, the Brazilians kept up the pressure but were able to break the draw — not on their own skill, but by a referee decision. The ref awarded an extremely soft penalty to Brazil in the 71st minute after Fred (yeah, Fred) flailed to the ground after he failed to get his head on an entry lob in the penalty box.

Neymar approached the spot and delivered a well struck ball into the back of the net despite the Croatian keeper getting a lot of glove on it as he dove to his right. From there, the Brazilian defense relaxed a bit and allowed Croatia’s midfield to deliver well placed passes to their forwards fairly regularly.

Several shots forced Brazil’s goalkeeper, Julio Cesar, into action. He made some challenging saves to preserve the lead before Oscar solidified the result on an impressive run. Oscar gained possession near midfield and streaked to the net evading the two Croatian defenders and firing a quick shot into the low left corner in injury time.

Brazil scored four goals and walked away with the 3-1 victory. Neymar’s two goals were just what Brazil’s fans were hoping for from the young stud.

They will have to get better defending if they expect to go deep into the tournament, but on this night their bend-but-don’t-break style was enough to satisfy the ruckus home fans and secure three points.


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