Brazil-Croatia Live: Neymar, Oscar Goals Give Hosts Win In 2014 World Cup Opener

World CupFinal, 3-1 Brazil: It’s over. The referee blows the final whistle, and Brazil takes all three points from the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.

Croatia gave Brazil an early scare, but the hosts recovered to earn a convincing victory in the Group A curtain-raiser. Attackers Neymar and Oscar scored the goals for Brazil, and their names’ appearance on the score-sheet aptly reflects how well they shouldered the burden of creating and finishing goals.

But it wasn’t without controversy. Croatia will feel aggrieved after the referee made two calls in the second half that directly affected the result: Fred’s dubious penalty and Olic’s disallowed goal.

The official’s decisions shouldn’t cast too big a cloud over Brazil’s victory. Brazil outplayed Croatia for long stretches of the game, pinning the visitors in their own half for minutes at a time. While Brazil’s performance was nowhere near flawless, the comeback victory thrilled fans inside the stadium and should shield the team from widespread criticism.

Brazil moves to the top of the group with three points. Croatia is on the bottom with zero. Mexico plays Cameroon at noon on Friday in the other Group A game.

Analysis of Neymar’s, Brazil’s performance against Croatia >>

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90th minute +1, 3-1 Brazil: Oscar scores to give Brazil the win and three points from the opening game.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Croatia

It came off a counter-attack. Oscar received a pass, dribbled through the heart of Croatia’s back line and poked his shot past Pletikosa from around 25 yards out.

Oscar,  Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka

90th minute +1, 2-1 Brazil: Croatia twice threatens Brazil’s goal, but Cesar makes a diving save on the first effort, and Luiz makes a heroic block on the second.

88th minute, 2-1 Brazil: Ramires replaces Neymar as Brazil head coach Luis Felipe Scolari looks to close out the game by adding another body to the midfield.

Neymar exits to a thunderous standing ovation from the home fans.

88th minute, 2-1 Brazil: Gustavo is cautioned for a rough foul on Modric.

86th minute, 2-1 Brazil: Croatia has an excellent chance to tie the game, as Modric’s shot deflects off Olic and heads for the goal. But Cesar makes a diving save.

83rd minute, 2-1 Brazil: Olic thought he had scored the tying goal, but the referee disallows for an apparent foul the Croatian playmaker committed on Brazil goalkeeper Cesar.

The second half has taken a controversial turn, as the referee has made two crucial calls in Brazil’s favor.

78th minute, 2-1 Brazil: Rebic replaces Jelavic, as Croatia makes a change up front.

77th minute, 2-1 Brazil: Luiz comes close to extending Brazil’s lead, but he heads Oscar’s cross over the bar from close range.

71st minute, 2-1 Brazil: Neymar puts Brazil ahead by converting the penalty kick. He should consider himself lucky, as his shot hit the hands of the diving Pletikosa but still caromed into the goal.

Neymar

69th minute, 1-1: It’s a penalty kick for Brazil.

Fred and Vedran Corluka

Lovren appeared to pull Fred down from behind, but replays showed the Brazil forward embellished the contact and earned a dubious penalty. Lovren was cautioned for protesting the referee’s decision.

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Croatia

68th minute, 1-1: Bernard is coming on for Hulk, as Brazil tweaks its attack.

Hulk has yet to win over the Brazilian public in his national-team career. He didn’t help his case in 66 minutes of action in this game.

66th minute, 1-1: Corluka is cautioned for a hard tackle on Neymar.

63rd minute, 1-1: Hernanes replaces Paulinho in the center of Brazil’s midfield. The two share many of the same qualities, but Hernanes is more of a goal threat and plays with more passion and aggression.

61st minute, 1-1: Croatia makes its first substitution, sending on Marcelo Brozovic for Kovacic.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Brozovic scored an own goal for Croatia in an act of solidarity with his Brazilian namesake?

51st minute, 1-1: Brazil continues to enjoy both the lion’s share of possession and a territorial advantage, but Croatia’s defenders are doing a good job of defending in their own area.

46th minute, 1-1: The second half is under way.

Halftime, 1-1: The first half is over. The score is tied at 1-1.

Neymar saved Marcelo and Brazil from embarrassment by tying the game with an excellent solo goal. It was just rewards for a Brazil team that was far better than Croatia in the first half.

Croatia will be disappointed not to have held the lead for longer than it did but its defense simply could not withstand the barrage of yellow shirts that flooded its third of the field after it took the lead. It was somewhat surprising that Neymar scored with a piece of individual magic, as Brazil dominated collectively.

42nd minute, 1-1: Brazil has maintained its up-tempo attacking approach since Neymar scored, and it can’t let up.

Slowing down its attack would ease the pressure on Croatia and allow it to gain a measure of defensive comfort.

29th minute, 1-1: Brazil ties the score, and Neymar is the man of the moment.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Croatia

Neymar

Neymar dribbled past chasing Croatian midfielders before setting up his shot 25 yards away from goal. Neymar’s left-footed shot initially looked like a mis-kick, but it was perfectly placed in the end, rolling out of the reach of the diving Pletikos, bouncing off the inside of the post and into the goal.

It was Neymar’s 32nd goal in 50 games for Brazil. The 22-year-old is on his way to becoming a star in this tournament and a legend for Brazil.

27th minute, 1-0 Croatia: The referee cautions Neymar for elbowing Modric in the face.

22nd minute, 1-0 Croatia: Oscar’s curling shot looked destined for the back of the goal, but goalkeeper Pletikosa makes a fine save to preserve Croatia’s advantage. It came one minute after Pletikosa denied Paulino.

15th minute, 1-0 Croatia: How well Brazil recovers from the calamitous start will speak volumes about the hosts.

The crowd has become quieter since Marcelo’s own goal, but Brazil has upped the tempo and created a couple of nervous moments in Croatia’s third of the field.

11th minute, 1-0 Croatia: It’s a disaster for Marcelo and Brazil, as Croatia unexpectedly takes the lead.

Marcelo own goal

Rakitic collected the ball and released Olic down the left channel. Olic crossed to Jelavic, and the Croatia striker flicked it to the far post, where a charging Marcelo bundled it in.

It was a stroke of good fortune for Croatia. No teammate would have tapped in Jelavic’s no-look flick. Marcelo did a poor job of clearing it, resulting in the goal.

Click here to see Marcelo’s own goal >>

Fifth minute, 0-0: As expected, Brazil is dominating possession early on, although it hasn’t yet created any danger.

First minute, 0-0: The anthems are done, the players are ready, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup is underway.

Pregame: If Brazil’s lineup looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same team that won the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

When Brazil has the ball, Silva and Luiz will be rocks at the back, while fullbacks Alves and Marcelo push forward and provide width. Gustavo and Paulinho will provide security and balance as holding midfielders. Oscar will operate as a central attacking midfielder.

It’s surprising that Croatia is set up similarly to Brazil. Modric and Rakitic will look to control things in the middle. Olic, Perisic and Kovacic will provide service to Jelavic, who starts in place of the suspended Mario Mandzukic.

3:30 p.m.: Here are the lineups:

Brazil

Julio Cesar (12), goalkeeper
Dani Alves (2), right back
Thiago Silva (3), center back
David Luiz (4), center back
Marcelo (6), left back
Paulinho (8), midfielder
Luis Gustavo (17), midfielder
Oscar (11), midfielder
Neymar (10), forward
Hulk (7), forward
Fred (9), striker

Croatia

Stipe Pletikosa (1), goalkeeper
Darijo Srna (11), right back
Vedran Corluka (5), center back
Dejan Lovren (6), center back
Sime Vrsaljko (2), left back
Ivan Rakitic (7), midfielder
Luka Modric (10), midfielder
Ivan Perisic (4), midfielder
Mateo Kovacic (20), forward
Ivica Olic (18), forward
Nikica Jelavic (9), forward

3 p.m. ET: Let the games begin.

After years of build-up, the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off Thursday when Brazil meets Croatia at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paolo.

Not only is host nation Brazil is expected to top Group A, most prognosticators think the “Seleção” will win the tournament. Brazil starts its World Cup journey against what could be its toughest group-stage opponent: Croatia.

Croatia enters the tournament with high hopes of progressing to the knockout rounds. It has a talented group of center midfielders, who will not be in awe of their Brazilian opponents. Brazil-born striker Eduardo will sing both national anthems before taking the field for his adopted country.

The game kicks off at 4 p.m. ET. Stay right here for all the action from the Arena Corinthians.

World Cup Group A preview >>

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