A very enjoyable opening match which ended in a predictable way, although with a bitter taste in the mouths of those who watched. Neymar scored twice and Oscar finished as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 despite conceding first from a Marcelo own goal, later helped by a penalty decision from Yuichi Nishimura that saved the hosts from a very complicated situation.
Scolari used his usual formation and lineup, although he made a change that hurt his chances, as he used Neymar behind Fred while Hulk was wasted on the left side. Oscar, playing on the right, was their best player throughout the match and got his dividends with a very nice goal that showed just how old and slow Stipe Pletikosa is right now, but something didn’t click for Brazil as a team, getting almost everything from individual plays.
Croatia stunned the home fans with a goal after six minutes, as Ivica Olic made the most of the space left behind by Dani Alves who did a very bad job in defending his flank. Olic crossed, Nikica Jelavic added a touch and Marcelo, slightly unlucky but badly positioned, put it in the net. Croatia stopped pressing after that goal, which allowed Brazil to take over the pitch despite not having a very good midfield.
Oscar had one impressive shot at goal which was saved by Pletikosa, but later on Neymar, with one of his impressive dribbles, let loose a very weak shot with his left foot. Pletikosa went down very late because he didn’t see the ball, resulting in the equalizing goal after 29 minutes.
Brazil didn’t play better after their equalizer – not in the first half and not in the second. However, despite struggling to create chances or move the ball quickly enough to surprise the very organized Croatian side, a dive by Fred was recognized as a foul by Nishimura, as Neymar, not producing the best of shots, gave Brazil a lead they didn’t deserve.
From that moment on – the final 19 minutes – Croatia tested Brazil and showed their defending isn’t up to par with what is expected from a champion, and especially their defensive midfield. Julio Cesar was sharp and quick on his feet with three saves as Brazil gave up on possession or pressure, eventually getting their third after a brilliant tackle from Luis Gustavo, giving Oscar the opportunity to seal the deal in injury time.