World Cup Day 1: Referee aids Brazil recovery

If you didn’t already know what this World Cup meant to Brazil, the singing (or rather shouting) of their national anthem convinced you – victory is the only thing on their minds, failure is not an option.

They came out ready to storm the tournament, wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

But that same passion is what cost them early on. Brazil’s eagerness to go out guns blazing allowed a Croatian counter-attack – one that eventually lead to defender Marcelo putting the ball into his own net with only 11 minutes gone.

Just over 10 minutes later, Neymar showed his frustration when he deliberately elbowed Croatian midfielder Luka Modric in the face. Brazil’s perfect tournament was going sour fast.

But Neymar’s petulance was soon turned into brilliance when the Brazilian picked up the ball on the 30 minute mark and drove forward, hitting a left-footed shot into the bottom corner to equalize for his country. That goal sparked the life back into Brazil, who proceeded to control most of the match.

However, the turning point of the game came with just 20 minutes to go, as referee Yuichi Nishimura decided that Croatian defender Dejan Lovren fouled Brazilian striker Fred.

An outrageous call, considering Lovren hardly even touched Fred, but the gift ended with Neymar converting the penalty and Brazil taking the lead for the first time in the match.

And with that, Brazil had all the momentum. A goal from Oscar in the final few minutes of play sealed a 3-1 victory for his country, but you have to wonder how much the penalty decision influenced the outcome of the game.

Regardless, Croatia (who were brilliant in this opener) showed that Brazil are vulnerable.

The Brazilians are under immense pressure, but also have all the motivation necessary to succeed; in one game they fluctuated between blood-lust, bravery and extreme nervousness. This home crowd could be their biggest advantage. It could just as easily be their downfall.

A special mention must go to Neymar, who, despite being overshadowed by the magnificent Oscar, stepped up to deliver two goals. Nobody has more pressure than Neymar (who is expected to be Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho combined) but the man delivered.  If he stays in this kind of form: defenders beware.

Controversy, goals and a fantastic match. What a start to the World Cup.

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