A wonderful goal by Kaka on the stroke of half-time was enough to secure all three points for Brazil in their opening game against Croatia.
The world champions were pushed all the way by a hard working Croatian side, who, but for some poor finishing, may have secured the point their endeavours deserved.
The first chance of the game came from a typical long range Roberto Carlos shot which Pletikosa tipped over. From the resulting short corner Ronaldinho came close with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
But, in the early stages, Croatia contained Brazil well and were certainly not overawed by the prospect of facing the pre-tournament favourites. There were encouraging signs for the underdogs when Kranjcar broke through the middle and fired a powerful shot wide.
Brazil were passing the ball around in leisurely fashion but their moves were breaking down on the edge of the Croatia area as Ronaldo and Adriano seemed reluctant to break sweat in pursuit of the ball.
On the rare occasions that Brazil got a sight on goal Pletikosa was equal to the task. However, just when it looked like Brazil were running out of ideas, Kaka produced a wonderful piece of skill to give his side the lead. Collecting the ball on the edge of the area with two defenders clsong in on him, the Milan playmaker made space for himself and curled in a marvellous left foot strike past the despairing dive of Pletikosa.
Shortly after the break, Klasnic came close to levelling the scores when he turned smartly and brought a fine save from Dida. The same player struck a sweet shot from the edge of the area moments later but Dida saved comfortably.
Ronaldo woke from his slumber early in the second half to fire a powerful drive just over the bar.
There was an air of complacency about Brazil’s play, exemplified when Roberto Carlos nearly gifted Croatia a goal with a carelessly-taken free-kick that fell to Prso. Only a last-ditch tackle from Lucio saved the day for the reigning champions.
Ronaldinho, who along with Kaka was the only one of Brazil’s much vaunted attacking quartet to look interested, came close to scoring a second for Brazil but his header was parried away by Pletikosa.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Olic created another good chance for Croatia as he sprinted beyond the static Brazilian defence, but his tame final ball was cleared for a corner. Shortly afterwards Babic had a wonderful opportunity to equalise but his right-footed shot was straight at Dida.
At this stage Brazil looked ragged, and coach Parreira responded to the inertia afflicting his side by withdrawing the disappointing Ronaldo and replacing him with his Real Madrid teammate Robinho.
The substitute had an immediate impact and his cross-shot was met by Adriano who poked his effort just wide.
Whether it was due to Robinho’s arrival or the realisation that Croatia posed a genuine threat, Brazil managed to pick up the pace in the later stages and began to dominate possession without ever looking like scoring again.
Nonetheless, this was a far from convincing performance from the world champions, who did just enough to secure the points. Also, on this evidence, there must be concerns over the abject performance of Ronaldo, who looked neither match-fit nor interested in proceedings.
Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Ze Roberto, Emerson, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano, Ronaldo. Subs: Cicinho, Cris, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Juninho, Luisao, Mineiro, Ricardinho, Robinho, Rogerio, Silva.
Subs used: Robinho 69 (for Ronaldo).
Bookings: Emerson 42.
Croatia: Pletikosa, Simunic, Robert Kovac, Tudor, Simic, Srna, Babic, Nico Kovac, Kranjcar, Prso, Klasnic. Subs: Balaban, Bosnjak, Butina, Didulica, Ivan Leko, Jerko Leko, Modric, Olic, Seric, Tokic, Tomas, Vranjes.
Subs used: Leko 41, for (N Kovac), I Olic 57 (for Klasnic).
Bookings: N Kovac 32, R Kovac 67, Tudor.
Referee: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico)
Scorers: Kaka 44.