Neymar stars as Brazil shine

Brazil have gained the perfect start to their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign in Sao Paulo, defeating Croatia 3-1 thanks to 2 goals from Neymar, including a 71st minute penalty. The Brazilians started with most of the possession and territory, although it was the Croatians who took the early lead on the counter-attack. Ivica Olic played in a low cross, which Nikica Jelavic was not quite able to make contact with. The slight deflection, however, was enough to put the ball straight into the path of Marcelo, who could not avoid putting the ball past a helpless Julio Cesar into his own net. Brazil continued to press, with Oscar forcing a remarkable diving save from Stipe Pletikosa. Before too long, however, they had equalised, with Neymar’s left foot strike sneaking past Pletikosa into the bottom corner of the net. Brazil kept pushing for an equaliser, and continued to dominate in all of the key areas.

The second half began much as the first, and not much happened for the first few minutes of the period. Brazil had a clear chance denied when Neymar was stopped from breaking through the Croatian defence by a foul from Vedran Corluka. Dani Alves missed the resultant free kick but a few minutes later Brazil had the lead. Brazilian striker Fred was pulled away from Oscar’s ground cross by Dejan Lovren, and despite a slightly over-inflated reaction from the Brazilian, Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot and booked Lovren. Neymar duly converted, despite Pletikosa getting a hand to it. David Luiz was forced into action just a minute later, deflecting a ground cross from Olic over the bar. The same defender nearly scored 5 minutes after that, with his header just missing the mark. Croatia pushed hard for an equaliser, a goal disallowed after Olic was deemed to have fouled Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar. Luka Modric and Corluka both missed good opportunities, but the game was placed beyond doubt in injury time, a couple of good challenges allowing Oscar to slot the ball past Pletikosa and grant the hosts a perfect start to the tournament.

Sao Paulo – Arena de Sao Paulo
Brazil 3 (Neymar 29, 71 pen, Oscar 90+1)
Croatia 1 (Marcelo 11 og)
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Jpn)

Brazil: Julio Cesar – Marcelo, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho (Hernanes 63), Neymar (Ramires 88), Oscar, Hulk (Bernard 68), Fred.

Croatia: Pletikosa – Vrsaljko, Lovren, Corluka, Srna, Rakitic, Modric, Olic, Kovacic (Brozovic 61), Perisic, Jelavic (Rebic 78).

Key Stats

  • Brazil had 59 percent of possession.
  • Brazil had 14 shots (9 on target), while Croatia had 10 shots (4 on target).
  • Croatia made 21 fouls, while Brazil only made 5.
  • Brazil had 7 corners to Croatia’s 3.
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