After a very colourful opening ceremony that had Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte singing the official song, we got down to the business that has gathered the world in Brazil. The Brazilian anthem was heartily sung and the crowd continued to sing the national anthem even after the music stopped. Neymar was the saviour for his country once again as he scored the equaliser and then the winner – one in each half to bring his international record to 33 goals in 50 appearances. Croatia made a game of it but Brazil probably merited the win with the amount of possession.
Croatia kicked off and got off the first shot through Mateo Kovacic then David Luiz replied with a tame header on five minutes. Then the first real chance came on seven minutes when Ivica Olic bullied Dani Alves but his header went marginally wide.
This was the warning sign for the Selecao, but it was not heeded. Another run down the left in the 10t minute by Olic and a his cross was marginally touched by Jelavic and that took it into Marcelo’s path and the defender diverted into his own net. That was the first own goal by a Brazilian in 20 editions of the World Cup.
Brazil thereafter tried to step up the pressure but Croatia were well organised behind the ball with Oscar the most potent outlet on the right flank. The Chelsea ran at Vrsaijko at every opportunity and whipped in crosses.
His persistence finally paid off in the 29th minute when he won a ball in midfield and Neymar took it on and scored with a left-footed shot that crept in off the post. But just seconds earlier, Cesar had to hold on to a well directed header from Jelavic.
There was lift off at the Arena Corinthians but the Croatians weathered the storm till half time to regroup.
The second half was a dour affair with both teams very cagey as they probed for openings. Oscar continued to be the main offensive lynchpin for the Selacao with Croatia’s right-back, Vrsaijko giving away free kicks on that right flank. But the game burst into life in the 69th minute when Fred bought a penalty off Dejan Lovren for the slightest of tugs in the box.
The Southampton defender was shown a yellow card for his hot protestations. Neymar stepped up to the plate and fired to Pletikosa’s right and the goalkeeper got his hand on the ball but could not prevent it going in.
That was Neymar’s 33rd goal in 50 appearances for his country and that goal proved to be the winner of a tightly contested match. The fans will hope that it sets the tone for the whole spectacle.
Oscar added gloss to the win in the 91st minute after Cesar had to make a save off Brozovic and then Brazil broke off up the pitch and after Ramires won a tackle cleanly in midfield on Rakitic for Oscat to advance on and toed one in to make the result emphatic and make it a perfect start to the World Cup.
Man of the Match: Oscar
01 mins – Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic shots wide from 20 yards
07 mins – Ivica Olic heads wide from an Ivan Perisic assist after some fine work from Modric in midfield
09 mins – Pauliho’s shot saved by the Croatia keeper
11 mins – Marcelo diverts Olic’s low cross into his own net for the opening goal of the World Cup
15mins – Oscar’s inviting cross eludes Fred and Neymar for a goal kick
20 mins – Stipe Pletikosa makes another save, this time from Paulinho’s shot
23 mins – Pletikosa makes a better save from Oscars left footed curler from 25 yards
27 mins – Neymar receives the first yellow card of the World Cup for a foul on Luka Modric
32 mins – Neymar makes up for that with his 32nd goal for Brazil at just 22 years of age to level scores at 1-1
41 mins – Neymar’s free kick is deflected for a corner and Croatia defend well yet again
45 mins – Fourth official adds 2 minutes
HT: Brazil 0-0 Croatia
53 mins – Croatia had just 7% possession at this stage of the game
62 mins – Substitution for Croatia: Mateo Kovacic off, Marcelo Brozovic on
63 mins – Substitution for Brazil Paulinho off, Hernanes on
66 mins – Vedran Corluka committed a professional foul on Neymar 25yards from goal
67 mins – Dani Alves takes the free kick but it went just wide
68 mins – Bernard came on for the ineffective Hulk
69 mins – Referee Yuichi Nishimura from Japan gave Brazil a debatable penalty after Fred threw himself on the floor after receiving a slight tug from Dejan Lovren
70 mins – Neymar stepped up and slotted the ball home from 12 years
77 mins – Oscar delivers a beautiful cross which was met by David Luiz’s header from four yards but he misses target
79 mins – Croatia replaces Nikica Jelavic with Ante Rebic
83 mins – Croatia had the ball at the back of the net but it was ruled out by the referee for a foul by Olic on Julio Cesar
86 mins – Luka Modric hits a brilliant shot from 25yards but Julio Cesar beats it away
88 mins – Neymar replaced by Ramirez and receives a standing ovation
89 mins – Julio Cesar makes a fine save from a long range shot from Perisic
90 mins – Oscar side foots a right foot shot pass Stipe Pletikosa in goal for Croatia
Full time: Brazil 3-1 Croatia