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Neymar leads Brazil to 3-1 win over Croatia

Did Brazil Live Up to the Hype?


BY TALES AZZONI
AP SPORTS WRITER

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Neymar gave Brazil a winning start to its home World Cup, scoring twice to lead the host nation to an unconvincing 3-1 victory over Croatia in the opening game on Thursday.

Brazil had a disastrous start when defender Marcelo found his own net while trying to clear a low cross by Ivica Olic in the 11th minute, but Neymar then showed why the nation's high hopes are all pinned on him.

The 22-year-old forward equalized in the 29th minute, clearing a defender in midfield before making a run toward the edge of the area and firing a perfectly placed low shot that went in off the post.

The game turned on a controversial penalty awarded by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura in the 71st minute when striker Fred went down inside the area under minimal contact from defender Dejan Lovren.

Neymar scored from the spot and the Croatians were furious.

"If that was a penalty, we should be playing basketball," said Croatia coach Niko Kovac. "Those kinds of fouls are penalized there."

"That is shameful, this is not a World Cup referee. He had one kind of criteria for them and another for us. The rules were not the same," said Kovac.

As Croatia searched desperately for an equalizer, Oscar added to the lead in the first minute of injury time with a toe poke from just outside the penalty area.

Croatia had a few good chances toward the end and had a goal disallowed in the 83rd after the referee ruled Olic had fouled Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

The host nation hasn't lost in the opening match in the last nine World Cups. South Africa was held by Mexico to a 1-1 draw four years ago.

A draw would have been a huge disappointment for Brazil, which had won its opening match the last eight times. The five-time champion entered the home tournament having won 15 of its last 16 games, including five in last year's Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament it won. The team hadn't been held to a draw in the opener since a 1-1 result against Sweden in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

The result kept Croatia without a win in its last five World Cup matches. Its last triumph was a 2-1 win over Italy in 2002. The Croats didn't play in South Africa four years ago.

The tournament finally got underway as planned after months of talk about the preparation problems that plagued Brazil since it was picked as host seven years ago.

The troubled Itaquerao Stadium, which wasn't fully finished for the opener, held up without major setbacks to fans or the match itself, although part of the lights atop the pitch went out a few times for brief periods in the first half.

Despite the support from most of the more than 62,100 fans in attendance, Brazil got off to a slow start and allowed Croatia to threaten early. It opened the scoring with one of its first chances as Marcelo failed to clear Olic's cross. The ball got slightly redirected by striker Nikica Jelavic before the Brazilian defender touched it backward into the goal.

The crowd stayed behind the team despite the setback and Brazil started creating more chances. Midfielder Paulinho and playmaker Oscar both came close to scoring, but it was Neymar who found the net with his well-struck low shot into the far corner.

"I wouldn't say it was the best game, but it's the World Cup debut," said Oscar. "I'm representing the national team and I'm giving it my best. And I managed to do this."

The penalty kick was awarded when Fred appeared to be tugged inside the area by Lovren. The Croats insisted Fred wasn't touched and at least five Croatian players swarmed around Nishimura of Japan to protest.

Neymar converted his shot from the spot even though Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa touched the ball and nearly made the save.

The goals were Neymar's 32nd and 33rd goals in 50 matches with Brazil's national team. The Barcelona star got a standing ovation when he was substituted near the end of the match.

He had received a yellow card in the 27th for elbowing Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric.

The other Group A match will be played between Mexico and Cameroon in Natal on Friday.

Join the discussion

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nataliekt6 June 12 2014 at 6:49 PM

The Japanese Ref was one of the worst ever they will go through the clips and his days are numbered.

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2 replies
arlipcinski nataliekt6 June 12 2014 at 7:11 PM

If you go back to other World cup you will find that the referee make his decisions in what he believe he sees. Depend on what angle you are located...

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4 replies
Dimitri nataliekt6 June 13 2014 at 10:45 AM

I know brother I felt so bad watching the game how FIFA let those idiots judge the game Croatia was great.

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avionicsteq June 12 2014 at 6:50 PM

I don't know why people watch this game when the ref decides the outcome. Fred should have been given a yellow card for diving and not awarded a penalty kick

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2 replies
arlipcinski avionicsteq June 12 2014 at 7:13 PM

All games are decided by the referee. Look all other games...

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spicedup1 avionicsteq June 12 2014 at 11:55 PM

I don't know why either. Every WC is freakin frustrating, yet we always hope the next one will be better. We like the game ..the exciting play..the gorgeous goals. That's why we watch. But corrupt FIFA and one man deciding outcomes typically in favor of the popular teams, just ruins the whole thing.

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raulppainting June 12 2014 at 6:53 PM

the second goal of Brasil wasn't a penalty kick .the referee feels the pressure of the spectators

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2 replies
arlipcinski raulppainting June 12 2014 at 7:14 PM

And the 1st goal of Croatia was not from Croatia .

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1 reply
johnolexa arlipcinski June 12 2014 at 7:48 PM

Own goals are nothing new.. but nether are terrible calls from the ref's. This one made 2! He won't be back.

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madkono raulppainting June 12 2014 at 8:06 PM

please don't change your name, giants vs camel jockeys, just doesn't sound exciting!!!

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psallidas June 12 2014 at 7:33 PM

A GARBAGE REFEREE IS RUINING THE WOORLDS BEST SPORT

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1 reply
oh_come_on psallidas June 12 2014 at 10:30 PM

Soccer IS NOT A SPORT

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5 replies
JC June 12 2014 at 6:35 PM

Brazil got away with a win in a mediocre performance. Good teams do that. They'll be hard to beat at home.

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4 replies
ghpianoman June 12 2014 at 6:31 PM

Even the one goal scored by Croatia was actually scored by Brazil :)

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1 reply
spicedup1 ghpianoman June 12 2014 at 11:51 PM

and the other goal scored by Croatia was disallowed..why? Croatian never touched the goalie..goalie punched the ball into the Croatian's head. Game was a huge load of....

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BoRaptor21 June 12 2014 at 6:59 PM

host country is fixed. No. 1 team in host country, fixed. burn some busses

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1 reply
BoRaptor21 BoRaptor21 June 12 2014 at 7:00 PM

Pardon me #1 team in world. alraeady riots

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fabiolenoir June 13 2014 at 9:31 AM

Caipriniha... Yes, Brazil win Croatioa, however, for sure Brazil is Not going to be the 2014 champion. Brazil did not play as one expect from a champion team. It took brazil ammost 65 or 70 minutes to score in the first round the first goal. The socond goal was a luck and based on a bad refree discision, the thirs goal was ok. Brazil's players keep falling down down as if they were recovering from the hang over of too much drinking Caipirinha from the previous night. I wonder how long it will take Brazil to score the thier first goal against defending champion Spain and other fanstastic teams?

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Pumpkinpie June 12 2014 at 11:48 PM

DEAR STUPID FELLOW AMERICANS, THE PENALTY KICK WAS JUSTIFIED. The Croarian player GRABBED the Brazilian Player. This is not American Football where you wretle your opponent to the ground.
YOU MUST NOT GRAB YOUR OPPONENT IN FUTBALL, aka SOCCER.
IF you watch the replay, you would find that the Referee was ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in his penalty kick.
If you don't know, ASK, and STOP making stupid comments.
All Goals were scored by BRAZIL, and CROATIA obviously was an Inferior team

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3 replies
No June 12 2014 at 7:40 PM

This is just more fuel for why many American's disdain soccer. The game turned on a flop and an ensuing bad call by the referee. Brazil had the upper hand in this game, but the victory was not deserved. Watching Fred look to the heavens after his dive was enraging. Brazil may celebrate this win, but if they play the way they did today in future matches, they will not hoist the World Cup.

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1 reply
madkono No June 12 2014 at 8:19 PM

the kings won a game, last friday, on a terrible noncall!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Whattup B? madkono June 13 2014 at 10:16 AM

If your referring to the NHL Rangers, they had multiple opportunities to capitalize...they couldn't - from wide open nets to breakaways to power plays. A non-call? Grow up and quit whining....

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