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Lead by Neymar, Brazil overcame an early scare in the opening match of the World Cup to defeat Croatia 3-1. The opening game of the 2014 World Cup was played in the newly opened Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil Thursday.
Brazil, the favorites to win the tournament did not get off to an ideal start. Croatia, who defeated Iceland in a playoff to qualify for the World Cup, did not seem the least bit intimidated by the energized Brazilian crowd, who have been waiting since 1950 to host another World Cup.
After looking like the calmer team in the opening 10 minutes, Croatia was given a gift when Brazilian defender Marcelo put the ball in his own net in the 11th minute, notes PA Sport. Nikica Jelavic just deflected a cross enough so that it got in Marcelo’s path as he was running back to defend his goal. The early jitters may have had to do with Brazil’s inexperience. Despite being perennial world powers, Brazil only started three players with previous World Cup experience.
However, Neymar did what great players do, and that is makeup for the mistakes of their teammates. Few players in the tournament will be under as much pressure to perform as he will, notes ABC News, but the legend in the making was up for the task. The 22-year-old Barcelona forward scored the equalizer in the 29th minute on this sensational goal that was just out of Croatian goalkeeper, Stipe Pletikosa’s reach.
Neymar would strike again in the 71st minute on a penalty to put Brazil in front. Brazil had not trailed during any point of last year’s Confederations Cup, eventually defeating Spain 3-0 in the final.
Chelsea's midfielder, Oscar, would end Croatia’s hope for a draw in the first minute of stoppage time when he skillfully placed this shot in the bottom corner of the net.
Brazil returns to action on June 17 when they take on U.S. rival Mexico. Croatia will look to bounce back from the defeat on June 18 when they square off against Cameroon.
According to PennLive, Brazil should breeze through the rest of the group stage, however Croatia still has a lot to work towards as part of Group A. The Croatians still have a decent shot of advancing to the knockout stages, as Brazil will likely defeat Mexico and Cameroon, to make it an exciting race for second.