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World - FIFA World Cup
June 12, 2014
• Arena Corinthians, São Paulo, São Paulo
Referee: Y. Nishimura
• Attendance: 62103
Neymar 29', 71'
Marcelo 11' (own goal)
Well as good a start to the tournament as we could have hoped for. The Selecao start Group A with all three points, and for a moment, all is well in Brazil. That's my cue though, it's been a pleasure. See you soon!
Croatia impressed with their defensive energy after taking an early lead through Marcelo's own goal, but in the end, it appeared that their success wasn't in the stars. Neymar's double and a late clincher from the splendid Oscar did the damage for the home side.
The World Cup gets up and running with a Brazil win, but the 3-1 scoreline does not tell the true story of this game. The Selecao were the better side and deserved winners, but they did benefit from a few crucial calls, most notably the penalty that led to Neymar's go-ahead goal.
90' + 5'
THAT'S IT! BRAZIL KICK OFF THE WORLD CUP WITH A WIN!
90' + 3'
Stomach punch stuff for Croatia here, who have had a few calls go against them. And within seconds of creating a glorious chance to go level, they see Brazil mount an unassailable lead with only a few minutes remaining. Their players look absolutely dejected on the pitch.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
Absolutely no one deserved a goal more than this man! Moments after Cesar smartly parried a close range Perisic shot, Brazil spark forward on the break. Oscar advances and has the defence backpedaling, and he neatly prods a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area!
90' + 1'
OSCAR WRAPS IT UP!
Four minutes of added time signaled.
Indeed, it is the two-goal hero who departs, receiving congratulations from all around the stadium, beginning firstly with the referee. A tad unprofessional that? The man to come one is Ramires. The Chelsea midfielder's non stop engine will be important for Brazil to close out this game.
Yellow Card Luiz Gustavo
YELLOW CARD for Gustavo, who stretched out too late to tackle Modric near the centre circle. Serves him right for that terrible moustache. All backs to the wall now for the Selecao as Scolari prepares his third and final change, with Neymar looking like the man to be replaced.
Croatia are starting to throw caution to the wind, as they rush forward at every opportunity! Silva nervously clears a long punt forward, but it only falls right back to Croatia. The ball is worked to Modric, who draws a save from Cesar with a low drive from the top of the box! The Vatreni are not done yet!
CROATIA WRONGLY DENIED! Brazil once again have all sorts of problems defending the high ball, and Cesar is beaten to a cross in the air by Olic. Rebic strikes the knock down and sees it blocked by Luiz, but Perisic turns home the rebound! However, the whistle had already gone, as the referee somehow deemed Olic's perfectly legal knock down a foul on Cesar. Another bitter pill for the visitors to swallow.
Into the last 10 minutes of a splendid game for the neutrals. The next goal, if there is one, looks far more likely to come from the home side. They fashion another chance as Fred attacks Neymar's corner at the near post, but he can't steer his header on target.
Jelavic departs the field of play after a pretty anonymous game. Not entirely his fault though, as he's been starved of service throughout. On comes Fiorentina's rangy forward Ante Rebic. Kovac will want the 20-year-old to have better luck up top than the man he replaced.
SHOULD HAVE HIT THE TARGET! Luiz gets a free header inside the area, but despite getting a good leap to meet the cross, he cannot plant his header into a position that would have caused Pletikosa to make a save. He might want to have a do over on that one.
Let's go back to that penalty for a moment. I've seen it a number of times on the replay now, and I have to say that Pletikosa really could have pushed that wide. He got strong hands to the ball, but it still managed to sneak in. Not for the first time this game, he's been beaten by an unconvincing Neymar shot. Shame, because he's been assured otherwise.
ALMOST AN INSTANT RESPONSE! Perisic tries to catch the defence unawares with a dangerous cross into the box, and Luiz has to react before Jelavic! He gets to the ball first, but nearly hooks it into the back of his own net, with the ball whistling just over the crossbar! Lovren then heads the corner wide!
Penalty Goal Neymar
NEYMAR SCORES BY THE SKIN OF HIS TEETH! The Barca man hesitated during his run up, and Pletikosa seemed to read his intentions. He dived to his right, getting a hand to Neymar's penalty, but he can't keep it from sneaking inside the post!
HARSH CALL for Croatia to swallow! The ball was played into Fred well inside the box, and he had Lovren on his back in a scramble for the ball. It looked like the type of wrestling that occurs countless times in a game, but Fred tumbled under minimal contact, and that was enough to fool the referee! Booking for the Southampton man, and only one man stepping up...
Yellow Card Dejan Lovren
BRAZIL HAVE A PENALTY!
The largely underwhelming Hulk has been replaced by the pint-sized Bernard in Brazil's second substitution of the game.
Neymar, Luiz and Alves all have eyes on this set piece, but it's the Barcelona right back who eventually takes responsibility. He gets good contact on the ball, moving it up and down, but it doesn't dip in time and ends up whizzing about a foot over Pletikosa's crossbar.
YELLOW CARD! Corluka takes one for the team, as Brazil found themselves with a two-on-two counter attack, with Neymar on the ball. He's the last man that the defence would have wanted to see running at them, but his attempted through pass is blocked just before he is clattered by Corluka.
Yellow Card Vedran Corluka
Brozovic's first contribution on this game is to concede a free kick. It's not going to plan at all for Brazil in the second half. They're being frustrated on their own turf by the massed ranks of red and white shirts between them and the goal. Hardly any of the space that we saw in the first half.
Scolari responds with a change of his own, as Tottenham's Paulinho is sacrificed for Hernanes. So, one Inter player departs from the field and another comes on soon after. Hernanes will provide a bit more craft and vision in the centre of midfield, compared to the all-action style of Paulinho.
First substitution of the game, and it comes from the visitors. Kovacic, the Inter Milan midfielder, makes way for another youngster in Marcelo Brozovic. The 21-year-old Dinamo Zagreb man enters the fray for only his second appearance for the senior national side. and slots straight into the midfield.
Almost an hour played here, and Brazil have not looked the same marauding force since the half time break. It's been a lot more ponderous and isolated from them, with the attacking players not moving forward as a unit anymore. That's in no small part due to the defensive diligence of Croatia, who seem quite happy to sit on this 1-1 scoreline.
PLETIKOSA HAS TO BE QUICK! For once, the Croatia back four is caught high up the field, and a lofted pass over the top seemed set for one second to set Oscar behind the defence. However, the FC Rostov goalkeeper scampers off his line to get to the ball first.
Croatia belatedly advance into the Brazil half, but their endeavors are halted quickly by a woefully inaccurate shot from Modric. More desperation than anything, as the visitors looked completely devoid of ideas on that foray forward. Brazil back on the ball.
Croatia are definitely missing the presence of Mario Mandzukic in attack. One of the absolute best in the game today at winning headers, holding the ball up and working defenders, his style of play would have fitted perfectly as an outlet for their defensive style. We've barely had a Jelavic sighting so far.
Free kick for Brazil near the right corner flag as a heavy handed challenge from Vrsaljko takes out Oscar. Neymar takes charge of the set piece and attempts to deliver it towards the near post, but Corluka gets to the ball first to head clear. Momentary respite for Croatia though, as Oscar quickly wins the ball back.
The Selecao with a stranglehold on possession since the resumption of the game, with Croatia happy to sit all 10 outfield players behind the ball to prevent the runners in the Brazil ranks from getting into stride. Much like the first half, they're concentrating their attacks down the right flank, but Alves twice fails to get the ball past the first man with his crosses.
No changes at the break from either Scolari or Kovac. The second half kicks off with Brazil on the ball. A somewhat muted reception in the stands, with man fans still making their way back to their seats. The next goal will be vital in determining the approach of each side.
Here we go again!
The players are making their way back onto the field, and the second half is about to kick off.
Olic has probably been the best player on the pitch for Croatia so far, after his teasing cross caused problems in the heart of the Brazilian defence, leading to the opener. He also flashed an even earlier header agonizingly wide, and as usual, has tracked back at every opportunity.
Neymar, as ever, has taken the spotlight thanks to his equalising goal, but I've been most impressed with Oscar's contributions in the first half. His assist for Neymar's leveler was borne out of pure defensive hustle to win the ball back - which was typical of his first half performance.
However, we've sen plenty of evidence of the awesome attacking quality of the Selecao. Luiz Felipe Scolari should be pleased with some of the sequences put forth by his side in the final third. His side have mustered 10 attempts on goal, with four finding the target. They've held over two-thirds of the ball too, and Scolari will surely want more of the same in the second half.
From then, most of the action was concentrated in the direction of Pletikosa's goal, but the Vatreni keeper has stood firm with some confident goalkeeping - although I wager he would want another crack at saving that Neymar goal. He's been ably assisted by his outfield players, who have made an admirable collective defensive effort to frustrate Brazil.
An opening to the World Cup that has lived up to all the hype. There's been action at both ends, and Croatia threatened to rip up the script after forcing an early own goal from Marcelo. However, Brazil got the narrative back on track through Neymar's jubilant equaliser just before the half hour mark.
45' + 3'
HALF TIME, as the referee blows the whistle and sends both sides to the dressing rooms.
45' + 1'
Into the first of two added minutes at the end of this half. You can already see a few fans making their way to the exits to beat the rush for bathrooms and refreshments. Croatia will be the side more eager to hear the half time whistle, as they've been defending doggedly for some time now. Not a bad score for either side to take into the interval.
Half time is just around the corner, and it's been all Brazil since around the half hour mark, when they drew level through Neymar. Croatia have rode their luck defensively at times, but they needed no fortune on Brazil's latest attack, as Hulk smashes a loose ball almost out for a throw from inside the penalty area.
Not for the first time this evening, Neymar's corner cannot find a teammate inside the box. Brazil have shown a lot of enterprise in attack, but they could and should be doing a lot better from set pieces. Paulinho, Luiz, Silva - these are not exactly difficult targets to pick out.
Free kick for Brazil after a foul by Rakitic, and the referee is put under some pressure to ensure that the wall is the correct distance from the ball. After sorting out the formalities, Neymar is allowed to strike, but he can't get it over the four-man wall, and it's out for a corner.
Croatia earn something of a respite in the last few minutes with a short spell of possession in the Brazil half. However, their relief is ended when Srna left his foot in a little late on the ankle of Marcelo. Brazil nearly hit back with a barnstorming run from Oscar that takes him past two men, but he's tackled at the last by Lovren!
IMPORTANT INTERVENTION FROM MODRIC! The right flank has really been a source of tremendous promise for Brazil! Oscar has been extremely resourceful out wide, and he delivers a cross towards Paulinho, but Modric steps in with a vital tackle!
Croatia made the World Cup after navigating a playoff series against Iceland, winning 2-0 on aggregate. However, it should never have come to that, as the Vatreni started their qualification campaign with five wins and one draw. But only one point from their final four games saw them leapfrogged for top spot by Belgium.
It's all Brazil at the moment, as the Selecao are attempting to channel the high from that equaliser into more chances in the final third. Perisic has to react quickly to clear a dangerous cross from a flowing Hulk, but from the ensuing corner, Pletikosa manages to get a grip on the ball.
From villain to hero in about 60 seconds. After picking up a yellow card for a careless foul, Neymar restores parity with his 32nd international goal on his 50th international appearance. It was also Brazil's 211th World Cup goal, but questions might be asked of Pletikosa, given that it was hardly the most powerful shot.
The moment that he's been waiting for! And it had to be Brazil's golden boy! Credit must first and foremost go to Oscar, whose tenacity in midfield won the ball back for Brazil in the Croatia half. From there, Neymar advanced unchallenged, and from 20 yards, swept a low left-footed shot into the bottom corner via the base of the post!
NEYMAR TIES IT UP!
Croatia have proven themselves to be a menace when getting the ball in from wide areas. Brazil do not look entirely comfortable at the heart of their defence, but this time, Luiz manages to deal with the delivery, clearing the resulting free-kick from Neymar's foul.
Yellow Card Neymar
First yellow card of the 2014 World Cup as the bad blood starts to gush out here in the Arena Corinthians! Neymar is the man who is booked, after a forearm shiver across the throat of Modric when battling for a high ball. Not malicious from the Barca man, but certainly unsafe play.
Perisic is down on the deck in some distress, after he caught a flailing arm from Paulinho in a 50-50 challenge. The game is halted for a moment given that it's a head injury, but the former Borussia Dortmund man is soon back on his feet. To add some insult to injury though, it's Brazil who are awarded the free kick.
CROATIA SURVIVE! Neymar's trickery sees him past Rakitic on the right byeline, but his low cross into the six yard area somehow evades all takers. Oscar attacks the rebound from the edge of the box, curling a gorgeous left footer towards the far post, but a MAGNIFICENT save from Pletikosa pushes it away!
Brazil, to their credit, are ramping up the pressure in the last few minutes. Paulinho is the latest to have a go on goal, but once again, it's too easy for Pletikosa. Brazil attack again moments later down the left channel, but a ball from Marcelo towards the near post cannot get the crucial touch, and the Croatia keeper smothers.
A quite superb moment of individual control from Dani Alves sees the Barcelona man pluck a long ball out of the air with a deft touch from his instep. That puts him in a lot of space deep down the right for a second, but his eventual delivery is too easy for Pletikosa.
Make no mistake, this has been an excellent opening to this contest, fully living up to the hype. Croatia have clearly come to play, and so far, they are doing a good job frustrating Brazil by throwing up two banks of four between them and Pletikosa's goal. A lot of hard work in the ranks of Kovac's men.
INCHES AWAY! Brazil attack down that right hand side again, this time through Oscar, who manufactures the space to dig a cross in towards the far post. It's missed by Fred and more crucially by Neymar, whose athletic sprawl towards the ball nearly made contact!
That unwanted conversion by Marcelo now stands as the first ever own goal by Brazil in their World Cup history. If anything, that shock opener has to spark the Selecao into a higher drive at the other end. Take NOTHING away from Croatia though, who have created by far the better chances!
Own Goal Marcelo
Disaster in the Brazilian ranks! Croatia already have fashioned danger down the right hand side thanks to Olic's header, and from the opposite flank, he turns provider. His low cross is just missed by Luiz, and a small touch from Jelavic sees the ball rebound off Marcelo and into the back of the net! Own goal, and the hosts are trailing!
SHOCKER! BRAZIL ARE BEHIND AS CROATIA TAKE THE LEAD!
The game has developed a really enticing ebb and flow, as Brazil get themselves back down to the edge of the Croatia box almost instantly. Paulinho takes aim from around 20 yards, but it's deflected behind for a corner. After some delay, Neymar delivers the resulting ball, but it's easily dealt with.
DANGER AT THE OTHER END! For a moment, a glorious moment, Croatia though that they had taken the lead! A deep hooked cross from Perisic on the right sees Olic easily out-muscle and out-jump Alves at the far post. He powers a header towards goal, but it flashes just off the top corner! Cesar, with a sprawling dive, may have just gotten there!
Not a bad opportunity for Brazil there. Marcelo whipped in the set piece towards the far post, where captain Thiago Silva duly headed it right back into the mixer. David Luiz has a good head start against Rakitic, but even he can't generate enough power on the header to trouble Pletikosa.
Free kick awarded to Brazil thanks to Srna's barge into the shoulder of Hulk. Brazil have a really good position deep on the left flank to get a ball into the box, and Scolari has urged all of his big bodies into the centre of the box to get on the end of this delivery...
Croatia kicked us off but it's Brazil who are dominating all of the early activity. Dani Alves sends in an early tester for the defence with a cross from the right flank, but it's easily dealt with by Lovren, who heads clear. The Southampton man and defensive partner Vedran Corluka may well be in for a busy evening.
And we're off! The 2014 Fifa World Cup has begun!
Both teams surround the centre circle as three children release a trio of white doves into the sky, a goodwill gesture to signify peace around the world. It's also an unofficial cutting of the ribbon here. Seconds away now...
Brazil win the toss, and both captains shake hands with the match officials as the teams get in position. We are witness to a simply incredible level of noise ringing around inside this stadium!
The anthems are ringing out around the Arena Corinthians, with a robust cheer for the Croatian anthem followed by a far more raucous rendition of the Brazilian hymn. We're minutes away from the plunge folks!
So, after 820 qualifying matches, we've whittled over 200 nations down to only 32. Tonight's match sees two teams that have faced each other just twice in their respective histories. In Croatia's last appearance at the World Cup finals, they lost 1-0 to Brazil in the group stages back in 2006, while one year previously, the spoils were shared during a 1-1 friendly draw.
A lot will rest on the Croatian midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Their blend of creativity and tactical nous is an interesting contrast to the energy and hustle of Brazilian counterparts Gustavo and Paulinho. If Niko Kovac's men are to have a chance today, then the Liga pair will have to be on top form.
The big news for Croatia heading into this game was the suspension of lead striker Mario Mandzukic thanks to a red card picked up in qualification. So, Nikica Jelavic will lead the line for the Vatreni, with Ivica Olic playing just off him. Former Arsenal striker Eduardo will have to settle for a place on the bench against the country of his birth.
Luis Gustavo and Paulinho will man the middle for the Selecao, while a lot will rest on the trio of Hulk, Oscar and especially Neymar, floating just behind lone striker Fred. With exciting options like Willian and Bernard available on the bench, don't expect the high octane football to slow down for one instant.
So, no surprises at all in the Brazil lineup. It's the same XI that smashed past Spain in the Confederations Cup final just under a year ago. Julio Cesar in goal, with Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo making up the back four.
CROATIA SUBS: Zelenika, Subasic, Vida, Sammir, Vukojevic, Kovacic, Eduardo, Rebic.
CROATIA (4-4-1-1): Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaijko; Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Brozovic; Olic; Jelavic.
BRAZIL SUBS: Jefferson, Victor, Maicon, Dante, Henrique, Maxwell, Fernandinho, Ramires, Hernanes, Bernard, Willian, Jo.
BRAZIL (4-2-3-1): Cesar; Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
Time to take a look at our teams for this evening's clash!
By far their best peformance was in the France '98 edition when, led by Miroslav Blazevic, they finished third, defeating the Netherlands after narrowly losing the semi-final 2-1 against the hosts and eventual winners. They failed to make it out of the group stage in their next two tournament appearances.
Since splitting from Yugoslavia, the Croatian national football team have appeared in the World Cup finals on three occasions, qualifying for three consecutive tournaments in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
We're just about 40 minutes away from kicking off here, and out come the players on the pitch for the first time! They're greeted by a deafening cheer from the fans as they embark on their warm up exercises - though I suspect that most of those cheers are directed to the boys in blue. The anticipation has just been kicked up a notch.
Uruguay, thanks to Alcides Ghiggia's late winner in the final, stunned the Maracana and the football world to win the 1950 competition. This led to Ghiggia's famous quote: "Down through its history, only three people have managed to silence the Maracana: the Pope, Frank Sinatra and me."
The host nation has never lost their opening game in a World Cup tournament - winning 14 and drawing 6 in that stretch. Brazil hosted the 1950 edition and won their opener 4-0 against Mexico, though that tournament had far from a happy ending for the Selecao.
We're back in what is, for many neutrals, the motherland of football. The World Cup has not been hosted in South America since 1978, where hosts Argentina defeated the Netherlands to clinch that famous trophy. Host status is nothing to be scoffed at - it is that very fact that has many tipping Brazil to be the team celebrating at the Maracana in 31 days' time.
Here we go then! A warm welcome to all of you as we kick off the 2014 World Cup here in Sao Paolo. The host nation Brazil square off against Croatia at the Arena Corinthians. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, delighted to bring you all the action from the World Cup opener!
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