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Referee Leads Brazil To Victory Over Croatia

Neymar-BrazilThe headlines might say that Neymar’s two goals helped Brazil come from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 in the opening match of the World Cup, but that is only part of the story.

An unimpressive Brazil side were struggling at 1-1 to open up the Croatian defense, when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded one of the softest you will ever seek in the 71st minute to help Brazil take the lead. The penalty came about when Fred threw himself to the ground in the penalty box and feeling the lightest touch possible from Southampton centre-back Dejan Lovren on his shoulder. It was a horrendous decision. You knew it was not Croatia’s night when Neymar stepped up to take the penalty and his shot went through the hands of Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa. Should have been saved.

And you could have said that about all three Brazil goals. They could have been saved. Neymar’s first goal was a scuffed shot from outside the box found the bottom corner. Then with Croatia pushing for an equalizer late on, Oscar ended a mazy run with a toe poke from the edge of the penalty box, that seemed to catch Pletikosa by surprise. If they had a better goalkeeper, Croatia probably won have won this game.

Luiz Felipe Scolari will be relieved that this game is over. After a year of waiting and buildup, with the pressure of the whole nation on their shoulders, Brazil managed to win without playing well. Always a good sign. And their star man Neymar scored two goals to throw down a marker that this will be his tournament.

As for Croatia, they were impressive. They caused the Brazilian defense a lot more problems than I thought they were capable of, and despite losing Thursday, I still see them finishing second in the group.