Brazil 3-1 Croatia: Neymar inspires Selecao comeback

Two goals from Neymar and a late Oscar strike inspired Brazil to a

3-1 comeback victory over Croatia in the opening game of the 2014

World Cup.

The host nation fell behind to an early own goal from Marcelo, before

Neymar was perhaps fortunate to be shown just a yellow card after

catching Luka Modric in the throat with a stray arm.

Soon after, the 22-year-old levelled with a fine 25-yard effort on his

left foot, before converting a controversial second half penalty after

Dejan Lovren was adjudged to have brought down Fred.

And as the game entered injury-time, man-of-the-match Oscar sped

forward and toe-poked home an effort from the edge of the box to give

Brazil breathing space and, most importantly, three points.

While Brazil had the luxury of naming the same side that started last

year's Confederations Cup final success over Spain, Croatia were

without suspended striker Mario Mandzukic, leaving Nikica Jelavic to

lead the line in his absence.

Also without injured left-back Danijel Pranjic, Croatia fired the

first shot in anger as Mateo Kovacic steered an effort wide in the

first minute.

Brazil's first significant foray forward saw David Luiz's tame header

saved, but the pressure was on them at the other end of the pitch.

Ivica Olic's header wide served as a warning for Brazil, and it was one

they did not heed, as Croatia claimed a surprise 11th-minute lead.

Olic galloped down the left wing in space before crossing for Jelavic, and

although he could only scuff a left-foot shot, his effort was inadvertently

steered in by Marcelo from six yards.

Brazil's initial response was frantic and anxious, but they soon found

their rhythm, with Neymar's run to the byline and subsequent centre causing

panic, and almost the equaliser, as Oscar saw a 20-yard left-foot effort

superbly saved by Pletikosa after Croatia failed to clear their lines.

Neymar's contact with Modric then drew an angry response, with replays

showing that the Barcelona star had caught the midfielder in the throat

with a stray arm, before Jelavic headed straight at Brazil goalkeeper Julio


Croatia's promising start was undone in the 29th minute, though, as Oscar,

who did superbly in a cluster of players to find Neymar, watched his

team-mate trickle a left-foot strike past Pletikosa and in off the inside

of the post from 25 yards.

A lull was inevitable following half an hour of mayhem, but it lasted

longer than expected, and although Brazil shaded the early stages of the

second half, the best they had to show for it was a Dani Alves free-kick

that sailed over.

That was until Nishimura pointed to the spot after Oscar's ball to Fred

brought about slight contact from Lovren.

Neymar's stuttering run-up was far from convincing, and his tame effort

ought to have been kept out by Pletikosa, but the goalkeeper could only get

a hand to the shot on its way into the net.

A sublime Oscar cross nearly brought about Brazil's third goal, only for

Luiz to head over, while at the other end Croatia's hard luck was summed up

by Ivan Perisic's disallowed goal, ruled out because of Olic's minimal

contact with Cesar.

Modric and Vedran Corluka both went close as well, as Croatia mounted a

late charge, but Oscar's composed finish capped a stunning performance from

the midfielder, as the hosts opened the World Cup with a victory.


Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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