Brazil secured a much needed three points in the opening game of this summer’s World Cup, a brace from Neymar and a late Oscar goal relieved some of the early pressure that was heaped on Phil Scolari’s squad.
It was the hosts who went behind though. After just 11 minutes, a low driven cross from Ivica Olic on the left hand side was miskicked by Nikicia Jelavic as he attempted to strike at goal and the ball deflected off Marcelo for an unfortunate own goal.
Star man Neymar, who else? Brought Brazil back on level terms thanks to his accurate finish from outside the box that crept past Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatia goal, off the inside of the post and into the net for 1-1 with 29 minutes on the clock after Oscar won the ball and set Neymar on his way.
Tonight Neymar became the youngest ever Brazilian to reach 50 caps for the national side at just 22-years-old. His equalizing goal was his 32nd for his country.
Neymar added his 33rd with a 71st minute penalty in extremely fortunate circumstances. The foul that led to the spot kick was a soft one: Dejan Lovren of Southampton barely touching Fred with an alleged shirt pull but the Brazilian threw himself to the ground and the referee pointed to the spot.
The penalty itself was a weak one, after much activity from Pletikosa on the line and an equal amount of stuttering from Neymar in the run up led to the strike going straight at the Croatian who saved it but the ball squirmed off his gloves and into the net.
Before his first strike however, Neymar could perhaps have been sent off for what looked like an elbow on Luka Modric, he only received a yellow card for his misdemeanor though which was probably the correct decision as there was very little malice in the challenge.
Brazi’s third and final goal came after Perisic’s effort was kept out by Cesar as injury time began and then Marcelo Brozovic had his shot blocked by Luiz.
The hosts broke free on the counter with typical pace and power. One of the stand out performers of the night in Oscar was the man who shrugged off the Croatian challengers after substitute Ramires won the ball and then toe poked the ball past Pletikosa who could have prevented all three of Brazil’s goals on the night.
Olic produced the first major chance of the tournament after he headed Ivan Perisic’s cross from the right touchline just wide by after seven minutes. Jelavic also came close with a header but Julio Cesar gathered his effort with consummate ease.
Oscar came closest without scoring for A Seleção in the opening 45 minutes when his curling shot from distance was parried away brilliantly by Pletikosa.
Former Chelsea teammate David Luiz wasn’t far away with a header quarter of an hour from time in the second half but he glanced his chance just over from close range.
Croatia piled on the pressure in the closing stages, even slotting the ball home but Olic was penalised for an aerial challenge with Cesar.
Modric also had a shot from distance palmed away by the Brazilian stopper with four minutes remaining as nerves started to creep into Brazil’s psyche but they held on, just about, and their third came in the closing stages.