Day 1 of the 2014 World Cup is behind us. One match in group A, as the hosts Brazil beat Croatia thanks to some creative brilliance from Neymar and Oscar, and also some terrible officiating that helped them pick up 3 points to set the pace and top the table in their group.
Brazil 3 Croatia 1: The hosts win in a less than comfortable manner. Marcelo scored an own goal after six minutes which put a lot of pressure on the Brazilians, but a nice dribble from Neymar and some terrible goalkeeping meant we had a 1-1 draw at half time. Another impressive dive, this time from Fred, allowed Brazil to score from the penalty spot (Neymar again), and after minutes of pressure from Croatia, a goal by Oscar in the 90th minute sealed the deal.
Hero of the match – Oscar was Brazil’s best player and deserved to score a goal. He did an excellent job on the right side, showing his excellent work rate and a lot more flair and creativity in his dribbling than we usually see when he plays for Chelsea. However, two people stand out as the men in charge of Brazil winning the match: Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa with two terrible reactions to easy, soft shots, and referee Yuichi Nishimura, giving Brazil a penalty they didn’t deserve, which saved them from a rough patch of minutes.
What did we Learn: Brazil need a change of pace and maybe a change of personnel. Using Oscar on the right wing works, but it costs them Neymar, who isn’t as dangerous in the middle as he is on the left side, and completely loses Hulk on the right side, where he’s completely lost. By not using Oscar in the middle it also left Paulinho (awful match) and Luis Gustavo alone against an excellent Croatian midfield. Also, allowing Marcelo and Dani Alves so much freedom creates too many holes in the defense which the trio of Luiz, Gustavo and Silva can’t cover on their own. Against a better side, it won’t end with smiles all around the stadium.
For Croatia, there wasn’t anything else they could have done. They attacked through space on the wings given to them by the Brazilian full backs. Considering they were playing without Mandzukic, they did well to attack with their strengths, pressuring Brazil in the middle and taking long range shots, testing Julio Cesar and his preparedness. With Mandzukic, things will look very different, but they’re now in a complicated situation and can’t afford to lose another match.
Group A Table
1. Neymar (Brazil) – 2 goals
2. Oscar (Brazil) – 1 goal
Group A: Mexico vs Cameroon
Group B: Spain vs Netherlands, Chile vs Australia