Neymar rescued a nervy Brazil in the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring two goals in a 3-1 comeback win over Croatia.
An own goal by Marcelo gave the Croatians a shocking 1-0 lead early on, but Neymar evened the score in the first half and scored the winner off a penalty kick in the 71st minute. Oscar added an insurance marker in injury time to cap an excellent performance of his own.
A frantic Brazil threw men forward after Marcelo’s unlucky own goal in the 11th minute, and finally gained the lead 20 minutes from full-time, when Neymar scored his second goal of the match.
Croatia has a right to feel slighted. It was a dubious call from Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura. Croatian defender Dejan Lovren was jostling with Brazil’s Fred when the latter seemed to fall of his own accord. But Nishimura pointed to the spot, gave Lovren the yellow card, and Neymar cooly blasted the ball past Stipe Pletikosa for the match winner.
Man of the match
Neymar. The man with the most pressure on his shoulders at the World Cup delivered when his country needed him the most, and that means good things for the hosts.
It was a good day for…
Oscar. It was a magnificent performance by the Brazil midfielder, who nearly overshadowed Neymar. He set up Neymar’s first goal, regularly barrelled his way through several Croatian defenders at a time, and scored a deserved insurance marker.
It was a bad day for…
Marcelo. The Brazilian defender has the dubious distinction of scoring Brazil’s first own goal ever at the World Cup. You read that right. Ever.
Overall entertainment rating
4/4. We knew Brazil would come out firing, but full marks to Croatia for coming right at the Selecao with furious counterattacks. The Croatians’ opening goal ensured the match had a massive amount of tension. Brazil had the run of play, but both teams had chances moving forward, and Croatia had great opportunities to tie the match in the final 10 minutes.
They said it
Brazil: "It was better than I thought. I was hoping that we'd win, but to be able to debut in a World Cup with a brace is an unmeasurable joy." — Neymar
Croatia: "We left an excellent impression, hats off to the lads. It's an honour to coach them" — Manager Niko Kovac
What does this mean?
For Brazil, it’s a major sigh of relief, as the hosts pass their first real test of resolve. Croatia frustrated Brazil for large stretches, and despite some very shaky moments at the back, the potent attack broke through. Next up is Mexico next Tuesday (CBC, CBC.ca/fifaworldcup, 3 p.m. ET).
Croatia has to be pleased with its performance. At times, the Croatians gave Brazil all they could handle, and it bodes well for the side’s chances at snagging the second spot in Group A. Croatia plays next against Cameroon on Wednesday (CBC, CBC.ca/fifaworldcup, 6 p.m. ET).