Neymar shines brightest, as Brazil thrash Croatia 3-1 in World Cup opener


There were not enough seats, the doves that were meant to be flying into the sky detoured straight for the stands, and many of the supporters in the ground were left in darkness as a result of the need to build temporary stands.

But in the end, Brazil matched the big billing with a victory on the World Cup’s opening night, and it is Neymar – inevitably – that has steered headlines back towards football.

After all the rhetoric, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side managed to come from behind to win 3-1 against a Croatia side which matched their opponents for long spells, but in the end just couldn’t cope with the weight of emotion descending from the bleachers.

The big build-up was always likely to take a turn for the worse, and Marcelo’s own goal inside 11 minutes provided exactly the moment Brazilians had feared.

Ivica Olic – not for the first nor last time – found space in behind Dani Alves after a neat pass from Ivan Rakitic, and after using the Sevilla man as a decoy runner he played a low cross in towards Nikica Jelavic which Marcelo inadvertently turned home at the far post.

Croatia were always going to need a little extra though, and they knew they had to keep Neymar quite somehow.

The entire Croatian side – save for goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa – rushed to the referee to demand that the Barcelona man be sent off following his stray elbow caught the face of Luka Modric.

The action didn’t look particularly malicious, and Yuichi Nishimura deemed it only worthy of a yellow card, but the fact it was Brazil’s star player who was the perpetrator gave the Croatians an extra reason to want to see red. Only a minute later, they were punished by the ex-Santos man.

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