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Two Neymar goals, moment of controversy see Brazil start with 3-1 win over Croatia

Jun 12, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT

neymar AP

Two goals from Brazil’s biggest star got the World Cup off to a successful start for the hosts, but controversy overshadowed Neymar’s brace as Brazil 2014 kicked off in Sao Paolo. After a 71st minute penalty drawn by Brazilian striker Fred left Croatia pleading its case to referee Yuishi Nishimura, the tournament favorites had their first lead, with stoppage time insurance alloying the favorites to claim a 3-1 result.

The underdogs were up after 11 minutes when a ball rolled into the penalty area by Ivica Olic was turned into Brazil’s net by Selecao left back Marcelo – the team’s first own goal in World Cup history. Eighteen minutes later, Neymar converted his first of the day, rolling a ball from the top of the arc inside Stipe Pletikosa‘s left post.

After Brazil gained momentum before halftime, Croatia assumed more control of the game in the second. That control was rebuked when Nishimura pointed to the spot in the 69th minute, issuing Croatian defender Dejan Lovren a yellow card after a disputed foul on Fred. Neymar’s finish from the spot delivered full points for the hosts.

One minute into stoppage time, a counterattack against the pursuing Croatians produced a chance from Oscar from just beyond the arc. Poking the ball inside Pletikosa’s right post, the Chelsea midfielder gave Brazil its insurance, producing a flattering two-goal result.

Play in Group A continues tomorrow when Mexico faces Cameroon in Natal. Brazil returns to the field Tuesday against Mexico in Fortaleza, while Croatia will face Cameroon on Wednesday in Manaus.

[ MORE: Nerves, Nishimura, Pletikosa: Talking points after Brazil’s victory over Croatia ]
[ MORE: Dive, poor officiating get 2014 World Cup off to a bad start ]

A slow start from Brazil gave Croatia two chances to strike first, the second of which put Niko Kovac’s team in front. In the seventh minute, a cross from the left by Ivan Perisic found Olic at the far post, but the Wolfsburg attacker’s snap header went just side of Julio César’s upright. Four minutes later, however, play built down Croatia’s left allowed Olic to roll a ball toward the edge of the six. A touch from Nikica Jelavic in the middle of the box caught Marcelo off guard, leading to an own goal.

source: Getty Images

Croatia Dejan Lovren (left) is called for a foul on Brazil’s Fred (right). Neymar converted the ensuing penalty kick to give Brazil a 2-1 lead. (Photo: Getty Images)

By the middle of the half, Brazil had shaken off their nerves, with chances from Paulinho and Oscar just after the 20-minute mark proving the favorites’ first threats on Pletikosa’s goal. In the 29th minute, a more benign chance finally produced the Selecao’s equalizer, with a scuffed shot by Neymar from 24 yards out nestling inside Pletikosa’s lower left hand corner.

Brazil built on that mid-half momentum but were unable to take the lead before half time. When the teams returned to the field, a more settled Croatia saw kept of the ball, with the team content to play around the edges of the Brazilian defense. The edge in possession that saw Brazil hold over 70 percent of the ball in the first half started to even out.

As the underdogs sent in reinforcements and Luiz Felipe Scolari looked for solutions, Croatia continued to bleed time off the clock, dominating the ball amid almost no pressure from the hosts’ midfield. Playing through Luka Modric in the middle, the underdogs spent most of the half’s first 20 minutes probing down the flanks before pulling the ball back toward the center circle. All the danger the favorites posed in the moments before halftime was gone.

In the 69th minute, Nishimura bailed the hosts out. On a ball played into the penalty area from the right by Oscar, Fred went to ground in front of defender Dejan Lovren, drawing a whistle. Pletikosa guessed correctly on Neymar’s try from the spot, but his hands weren’t strong enough to keep out a ball sent high into the left side of goal.

Over the game’s final 23 minutes, César was called on to make three big saves, with chasing Croatia controlling play over the match’s final chapter. In the 91st minute, however, Oscar brought their story to an end, with a ball poked from near 24 yards out getting past Pletikosa at the left post. Where César had stepped up to preserve his team’s points, Pletikosa had let in a second soft goal.

The 3-1 scoreline is what Selecao would have wanted at minute zero, but the form between the whistles left little difference in quality between the tournament favorites and a team hoping to escape Group A. The hosts took full points, but they needed some helped from Nishimura to do so.

[ MORE: Soccerly cover the World Cup ]

Lineups

Brazil: César, Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo; Paulinho (Hernanes 63′), Gustavo; Hulk (Bernard 68′), Oscar, Neymar (Ramires 88′); Fred

Goals: Neymar 29′, (p.k.) 71′, Oscar 90+1′

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

Goals: Marcelo (o.g.) 11′

  1. chargerdillon - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    Ruined game by the refs. Should have ended 2-2

    Instead they gave Brazil an undeserving penalty and took a goal away from Croatia.

    If this wasn’t a fix for Brazil, it was one of the worst ref’d games of all time.

    That’s what you call the Ugly Game.

  2. dws110 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    We won’t be seeing that ref again.

  3. reformed2012 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Well if Croatia won there will be no revenue for FIFA. Brazil needs to be keep in the tournament as deep as they can.

  4. mdac1012 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    A horrific call by the ref and terrible goalkeeping by Pletikosa pretty much sums up this game.

  5. eorlin1964 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    I wish RIchard would call it like it was; there’s no controversy here. The PK was a horrible call. If you want a call that might be controversial, use the foul called against Croatia just before they knocked in what would have been the tying goal. That call may have been soft, but it wasn’t simply wrong!

    • Richard Farley - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      Hey dude: Feel free to email me your definition of words before I post these. It would help. Also, maybe tell Dejan Lovren and co. to stop arguing, b/c that’s part of the definition of controversial:

      relating to or causing much discussion, disagreement, or argument : likely to produce controversy

      • hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:27 PM

        Way to encourage an open conversation Richard. Not nice as my 2 year old would say.

      • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:53 PM

        Well said, Richard. Richard is paid to give his insight or opinions. If you don’t agree with it, fine, express it, but don’t be condescending to try to command what you want to hear to appease to your child-like temper tantrum.

      • hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:06 PM

        @ footballer4ever it was Richard who was the condescending one by telling the guy to look a term…but hey. At least you got to score your points here with the author. Right ?

      • Richard Farley - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:07 PM

        Come on. He commented. I reacted. Everything’s fine. There’ll be soccer tomorrow. Enjoy your two-year-old.

      • hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:14 PM

        So tru. And hopefully the matches tomorrow will drive more talk around the play then guys holding the whistles.

      • Richard Farley - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:16 PM

        If it doesn’t … well, I’ll be glad I’m off tomorrow, then.

      • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:42 PM

        @ hartfordhellions4ever

        “At least you got to score your points here with the author. Right ?”

        rotflol, is that how you do it in real life with the boss etc etc? I have nothing to gain or lose in any way if i take the author’s side or not. There’s a way to express your agreement or disagreement with anyone. Some of you are too sensitive when the football hits your face, but when you do the kicking, it’s okay. Maybe we should blame the referee or your for flopping. ;)

  6. touchlineui - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    The scoreline is not a reflection of the game. croatia deserved more than what they got.
    Horrible goalkeeping and the controversial Penalty call decided the game.
    Brazil, on the other hand need to improve collectively because individual brilliance won’t always bail them out.

    • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      “Brazil, on the other hand need to improve collectively because individual brilliance won’t always bail them out.”

      That is the wisest statement i have gotten to read so far.

  7. rodge1 - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Refs changing the outcomes of games makes people not want to watch.

    • grm35741 - Jun 13, 2014 at 4:33 AM

      Winning by cheating is acceptable. Some writers call it controversial instead of what it is. Looking at a WC trophy on your shelf knowing you won it this way should have an asterisk in the history books. When it is this obvious the soccer community should scream shame!

  8. matt14gg - Jun 12, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    I tried to give it a chance, but that was awful. Horrible officiating, diving all over the place (which gets rewarded!)…sorry but it’s just not watchable when it’s hard to believe the game is even on the level.

    When Klinsmann said the USA can’t win he was right, but what he should have said is that no one can win, except Brazil, cuz the fix is in.

  9. fantom21 - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    Croatia were robbed, clear as day, in front of the whole world today. If the ref wants to call a penalty based on his judgement of the play, that’s fine, but he called everything in favor of Brazil today. Such a shame because Croatia really held their own and deserved a point.

  10. nottinghamforest13 - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    A complete hose job by the ref against Croatia. They outplayed Brazil the whole match & were robbed of a draw. Simple as that.

  11. footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    With all due respect to you football experts, that was a grab foul in which the Brazilian footballer sold it further. At first, i did not think it was a fault. Croatian footballer trying to do something like that in the penalty area should know any Brazilian footballer will do what it takes for a penalty to be called.

    • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      Thank you for all of you who voted down. The fact is footballers should keep their hands down and not try to pull a fast one of trying to hold/grab the shoulder. Yes, the Brazilian footballer found a way to sell it further, but that falls on poor defending on the Croatian footballer more than blaming a referee.

      • hartfordhellions4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:09 PM

        so fan of the flop are you ?

    • mdac1012 - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      “It was never a penalty”. – Alan Shearer

      “I cannot believe it was given. The penalty was poor.” – Danny Murphy

      “Disgraceful penalty decision decides the game”. – Stan Collymore

      Just the thoughts of a few football “experts” on the Fred penalty.

      • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:59 PM

        (Applause) I must admit that you are an expert at quoting people. (Applause).

        Good Job!

    • footballer4ever - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:54 PM

      @hartfordhellions4ever

      I am more a fan of saying things in a statement than by asking a question to prove a point. Having said that, I am no fan of anyone flopping regardless if it benefits or affects my team. If that’s no clear to you, then you are interpreting things you want to hear. Any defender doing that defensive tactic to use the hands to hold the opposition in the penalty area should be aware that he is exposing his team for a penalty to be called against them especially if the footballer decides to act on it. It’s sexier to blame the referee for everything, but score more goals than the opposition when you have the chance and that should take care of any controversy out there.

      • grm35741 - Jun 13, 2014 at 4:40 AM

        Not one person has agreed with you. It was a dive. Let it go. They won by cheating. Common but still shameful.

      • footballer4ever - Jun 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        @grm35741

        Trust me, I don’t break a sweat or lose sleep if anyone agrees or disagrees. Thanks for pointing what is important to you how you go about offering your opinions. Me, I march to the beat of my own drum. (Badabum-ching!)

  12. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    Chances of Neymar receiving a second yellow this round? Unlikely barring murder.

  13. lunasceiling - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    Atrocious call on a dive so obvious it would have been visible from orbit.

  14. navyeoddavee9 - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    Weak officiating, bailed Brazil out, a draw would have been a more than fair result. I hope this is not a preview of the officiating to come.

  15. r8rbhawk - Jun 12, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    Typical soccer: refs scared for their lives to make a call against the home team and thus all calls go against the visitors. Horrible flop rewarded, Brazil players start laying on the ground “cramping up” in the final few minutes. Seriously, this game fulfilled every soccer mad lib.

    Brazil is winning this World Cup, take it to the bank.

  16. godsholytrousers - Jun 12, 2014 at 11:48 PM

    FIFA’s Pets, get thrown another bone.

  17. atahualpaoxford - Jun 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    Feel very sorry for anybody’s that crossed Brazil’s path…
    It’s obvious that FIFA needs the host team to go deep into the tournament…
    The real funny thing is that the japanese ref is a policeman in his country…wowwww….
    He should be in jail…for being a thief…
    Hope my homeboys ( Argentina and Uruguay) can win it, but, by the looks of it, will be difficult..

  18. atahualpaoxford - Jun 13, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    Correction: crosses Brazil’s path

  19. treesloth16 - Jun 13, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    That’s what Croatia deserves. They played dirty soccer/football all game long. Holding, grabbing, tackling, pulling…. and none of that was called. So when they pulled someone in the box late in the game, it was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back. They played tough, yes, and they played well, but they played like the ’85-90 Pistons. And everyone hated those guys for playing dirty bball, so why defend Croatia now?

    • reformed2012 - Jun 13, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      I think you are watching a different game, or you are still using standard definition TV, or you are utilizing an illegal streaming service that “lags” so bad that you confused the color of the jerseys.

      Because everything you said was valid when “Croatia” is replaced with “Brazil”.

    • godsholytrousers - Jun 13, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      You couldn’t be more biased and wrong. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but obviously FIFA has a Pet in it.

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