Brazil secure opening night win over Croatia

Original article can be found here.

Brazil battled back from an early scare to beat Croatia 3-1 in an enthralling opening match of the World Cup 2014.

The hosts, who had not lost an opening match at the World Cup for 80 years, dominated with large spells of possession, but lacked urgency going forward in the opening stages, whilst their opponents were hungry to attack from the offset.

Ivica went close to opening the scoring after 7 minutes from Ivan Perišić’s dangerous cross but could not make enough contact to test Julio Cesar in the Brazilian goal.

Just four minutes later, the stadium fell silent as Olićsent in a low cross that evaded David Luiz and dropped into the path of the onrushing Marcelo who put the ball into his own net.

The South Americans were keen to stay calm but turned up the heat soon after as Oscar and Paulinho both forced good saves from veteran goalkeeper, Stipe Pletikosa.

Neymar should have been sent off on 27 minutes after he elbowed Luka Modrić, who was sporting a drastic new hairstyle, square in the face.

The hosts pulled one back on the half-hour mark, much to the vocal delight of the crowd, as Neymar found space in midfield, beat two men and sent a low, angled shot past the sprawling Pletikosa.

Neither side proved much of an attacking threat at the start of the second half until Brazil were awarded a highly contentious penalty with 20 minutes remaining.

Fred made the most of a slight touch from Dejan Lovren, who was booked as a result, and Neymar stepped up to score his second of the evening with Pletikosa knowing he should have done better than to just get a hand to it.

Croatia had an equaliser disallowed with eight minutes remaining, as the lively Olić was judged to have fouled Cesar before Marcelo Brozović slotted the ball into the empty net.

The visitors piled on the pressure in the final minutes of the game, Modrić and Perišić both testing Cesar with long-range piledrivers but Oscar made of the win three minutes from time.

Brazil hit Croatia on the counter attack and sealed the three points as the Chelsea playmaker toe poked past a poorly positioned Pletikosa.

Brazil top Group A and will now face Mexico on 17 June, with Croatia set to entertain Cameroon on 18 June.

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