Published On: Fri, Jun 13th, 2014

Football: Breaking Tackle, Pads On, Laces Out: World Cup -Brazil 3 -1 Croatia

Match Report

By: Okari Stephen Wambunya

 Is Neymar the man for the big occasion, or is he guilty of going missing when it matters? That was the question on everyone’s minds, in the build up to the eagerly anticipated opening match, of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The whole world and his nation, were expecting him to take this tournament by storm. Losing vs Croatia was not an option for the Seleccao faithful. Brazil had never lost their first match, of any World Cup ever. Tonight, the fans were expecting more of the same.

Neymar undoubtedly rose to the occasion with a positive performance, as the hosts beat Croatia, under controversial circumstances in Sao Paulo. Arguably, a game to forget Yuichi Nashumara. The Japanese referee’s costly errors, including awarding an incorrect penalty and not sending star man Neymar off, for a blatant elbow on Luka Modric. Ultimately lost Croatia’s chance of winning the game.

I love an underdog story. So Infact, Vatreni (The Blazers) took the lead in the 11th minute. Ivica Olic’s drilled left foot cross, eluded centre-half David Luiz and keeper Julio Cesar, via a flick on from Nikicia Jelavic, which lead to Marcelo misjudging the ball and scoring an own goal. There was a rapturous cheer from the section of Croatia fans, as their country took an unlikely lead. Confusion filled the faces of the Brazilian players in particular Marcelo, who was eager to make amends for his mistake.

However, Croatia was kicked back into reality immediately. A swift sucker-punch. In the 29th minute. As Neymar, scuffed a shot from 25 yards with his rifled left foot, hit the post and into the bottom right hand corner. The equalizer.  Although, Pletikosa should have done better as his positioning prior to the goal was suspect. The whole stadium went into delirium. Luiz Felipe Scolari went into overdrive and why not? Nerves were calmed and normal service resumed. This was standard business from Brazil, scrapping through the early stages before finding their Samba rhythm.

Then the turning point in the match came in the 71st minute. Dejan Lovren was judged to have fouled forward Fred, who used the hand on shoulder as an excuse to collapse in the box. The Referee used minor infringement to give a penalty. Neither could be proud. The leniency from Nashumara towards Brazil, was evident throughout the encounter. Neymar slotted home. Again, Pletikosa got a hand to hit but couldn’t prevent a crucial 2nd goal. As always, Neymar showed his Christian faith by pointing to the heavens. Which capped of a brilliant night, as he bagged his brace. Received a standing ovation, as he was replaced by Ramires later on.

Croatia’s midfield trio of Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic are criminally underrated – and should be given recognition, for their ability to cope under pressure and not to panic. They showed poise and composure, worked hard and kept the tactical shape. Excellent from the trio. As well as Lovren and Srna who were a solid presence in both distributing the ball and putting in decent challenges. Reliable from the duo. Impressed with Perisic too.

Oscar, easily the Man of the Match and deserved. On 90+ minutes, he toe-punted the ball into the right bottom left hand side of the keeper, no backlift, early speed from the poke, GK couldn’t adjust his feet to move and get a save from it. The benefits of Futsal as a kid. Pletikosa was at fault for the third time. Croatia dead and buried. The Chelsea man pulled the strings and bossed proceedings throughout the clash, as he linked up to devastating effect with Neymar, in the final third. Superb showing and dedicated his goal to his wife and daughter. Skillfully dazzled and danced through the opposition defense on numerous occasions. His endless creativity in a more orthodox winger role to the right, was the centre to every attacking move. As Hulk was ineffectual.

The back four of Brazil and Cesar, looked characteristically out of sorts at times, nevertheless decent in possession and recovered well.  The double-pivot of Paulinho and Gustavo kept things ticking over and were productive and contributed well, by making runs from deep and had a couple of decent attempts on goal. Fred had a relatively quiet game, but should be in the headlines for his deliberate dive.

A Thoroughly pleasant, highly contentious match. Hard on Croatia but Brazil don’t care. They will get harder to beat.

Neymar could have been sent off, could have missed a penalty.

Instead he scored two goals and is the hero. Football, eh.

 

By: Okari Stephen Wambunya will giving a daily analysis of the Worldcup , to get an update please follow okari on@WaveyWambz

 

 

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Football: Breaking Tackle, Pads On, Laces Out: World Cup -Brazil 3 -1 Croatia
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