That’s the end of the first day of Brazil 2014 and as opening matches go, it was one of the better ones. The hosts, as expected, but perhaps not in the manner many had anticipated, kicked off their campaign with a win. Croatia will feel hard done by, but optimistic they can still emerge from this group.
There are three more matches tomorrow: the other two teams in Group A, Cameroon and Mexico, face each other, while Group B kicks off with a repeat of the 2010 final between Spain and Holland, and concludes with Chile’s encounter with Australia.
Brazil 3-1 Croatia
- Marcelo og 11
- Neymar 29
- Neymar 71
- Oscar 29
Brazil 3-1 Croatia
- Oscar 91
Game over. Croatia were pushing forward in search of an equaliser but the ball breaks down the other end to Oscar who toe pokes from the edge of the area leaving Pletikosa clutching air. The goalkeeper hardly distinguished himself there.
Brazil are unable to kill this game off and Croatia think they have drawn level but the referee Yuichi Nishimura gives a foul for Ivica Olic’s challenge on goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Another contentious decision goes against Niko Kovac’s side.
Brazil 2-1 Croatia
- Neymar 71
Neymar practically sambas up to the penalty spot, jinking this way and that, before hitting a firm shot which Pletikosa gets both hands to but is only able to parry the ball into the net. The keeper will feel he should have saved that.
Fred collapses under very little pressure from Lovren and the referee points to the penalty spot. Soft.
It’s been a scrappy start to the second half. The action has been punctuated by a number of fouls committed by both teams. To reflect the inertia, a Mexican Wave breaks out in the crowd. Both teams makes changes: Croatia bring on Marcelo Brozovic for Mateo Kovacic, while for Brazil it’s like-for-like with Hernanes coming on for the anonymous Paulinho.
Cometh the half hour…
21: 30pm (BST)
Brazil 1-1 Croatia
- Neymar 29
And wouldn’t you just know it, but Neymar, who could have been off moments earlier, evades a challenge and drives towards the Croatia goal before unleashing a scuffed shot that creeps in off the post just beyond the despairing dive of Stipe Pletikosa.
First yellow card of Brazil 2014 goes to Neymar. It could have been a red too as the Barcelona man brought some clasico animosity to proceedings by elbowing Croatia’s Real Madrid man, Luka Modric, in the face. Referee Yuichi Nishimura errs on the side of leniency.
Brazil 0-1 Croatia
- (Marcelo og. 11mins.)
The script has just been torn up as Croatia take a shock lead. Great work down the left flank by Ivica Olic whose probing cross is diverted into his own net by Marcelo. The crowd have been stunned into silence within 11 minutes.
The starting line-ups for tonight’s opening game have been announced.
Croatia have sprung a surprise by picking Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic in place of the suspended Mario Mandzukic. The former Everton man will play up up front alongside Ivica Olic.
Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Ćorluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko; Modrić, Rakitić, Perišić, Brozović; Olić, Jelavić
The Brazil team is in – and it’s entirely as predicted. It’s the same XI from the last friendly against Serbia.
Brazil: Cesar; D.Alves, T.Silva, D.Luiz, Marcelo; Paulinho, L.Gustavo; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred.
To read our full preview of thegame, click here.
Witchdoctor issues warning to Lionel Messi
By now, as we approach kick-of time, we’ve heard from most people about what might happen over the next four weeks. But, one viewpoint we have yet to hear from is that of the local witchdoctor. But, help is at hand, courtesy of Chick Jeitoso, who issues a warning to Lionel Messi and also to the Brazilian team.
Stat of the day
Courtesy of our friends at whoscored.com, here’s a handy infographic illustrating what could be one of the key battles in tonight’s opening game: Croatia playmaker Luka Modric vs Brazilian defensive lynchpin Luiz Gustavo.
Kovac find reasons to be cheerful
When the World cup draw was made back in December, much of the attention focused on Niko Kovac after his Croatia side were drawn to face the hosts and favourites, Brazil, in the opening match of the tournament.
At the time, Kovac seemed unconcerned by the prospect of kicking off the tournament in a match almost everyone expects them to lose.
“I am happy that we are playing the opening match of the World Cup, we will have top preparations for that big game against Brazil,” he said.
“The whole world will watch our match. Small Croatia against big Brazil. We will do everything to make our nation happy.”
Seven months on and as you can see from his final press conference, not much has changed. Kovac still exudes a calm authority and remains confident that his players have nothing to worry about when they walk into the cauldron of the Arena de Sao Paulo.
Spain international Cesc Fabregas has left Barcelona and joined Chelsea in a deal reported to be worth £26.6 million. The midfielder says he has ‘unfinished business in the Premier League’, which we’ll take to be a euphemism for ‘no longer wanted by my boyhood club’.
Presumably the photos of Fabregas wearing a Chelsea strip were taken before he left for Brazil. In which case, this move has been a well-kep secret.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 12, 2014
Over the last few weeks we’ve been producing mini-guides to where all the teams will be staying whilst in Brazil.
Not sure where his four bodyguards are going to sleep though.
As if it didn’t have enough on its plate Brazil has been suffering a wave of strikes over the past few weeks. Subway workers threatened to bring Sao Paulo to a standstill, bus drivers in Natal are to stage a 24-hour walkout on Sunday, while teachers in Rip have been involved in a long-running dispute.
The latest group to down tools are airport workers in Rio, who have staged a 24-hour stoppage over wages.
Although everyone agrees that the Manaus pitch is in a poor state, no one can figure out what caused it nor the best way to remedy it.
Wayne Rooney, whose England side will face Italy on Sunday, seems unperturbed by the state of the playing surface.
“It’s the same for ourselves and Italy, so we’ll both have to deal with that,” he said.
Gary Lineker articulates what many must be thinking when he asks why, with 7 years to prepare, has it come to this?
Groundsman 'Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape. The field will not be in good condition'. They've only had 7 years to prepare it, though.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 12, 2014
12:42 pm (BST)
One of the major concerns ahead of the tournament was the security situation in Brazil. The country has responded by deploying 100,000 troops and 57,000 police officers to patrol the streets and the stadiums over the next month.
As you can see from this tweeted image, that’s a lot of security personnel.
I've never seen so many cops! As far as the eye can see – these forces will be guarding stadium in SP pic.twitter.com/H5p9i8dJ1u
— Dan Rivers (@danriversitv) June 12, 2014
12:15 pm (BST)
Dare to dream
Neymar says he hopes to fulfil the dreams of the Brazilian population by winning the World Cup. The forward was speaking as he attended a training session at the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil on Wednesday (11th June) – ahead of the opening game of the World Cup.
Brazil prepares to welcome the world
All week we have been bringing you some amazing images from Brazil as the country prepares to stage the 21st World Cup. Today’s gallery captures the hosts on the eve of the finals.
Quote of the day
“To all Brazilians, I want to say that the time has arrived. This is our World Cup.”
Luiz Felipe Scolari confidently predicts a victory for the host nation.
Brazil v Croatia preview
At 9pm (BST) this evening Sao Paulo stages the opening match of the World Cup. Brazil face Croatia and while hardly a mismatch, it would be a brave person who bets against the hosts tonight. To read our thoughts about that game, including a comprehensive tactical breakdown of both teams, you can read our preview here.
Pele on the importance of the World Cup to Brazil
Today is also a huge moment for Brazil’s most famous footballing son, Pele. The three-time World Cup winner was one of the ambassadors for the original bid, but his stock has fallen in recent years, not least due to his perceived indifference to the protests that have swept the country in the past 12 months.
Here, the 73-year-old speaks about those protests, but also about the significance of the World Cup to Brazil.
Sepp Blatter party pooper
It was back in October 2007 that Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup and here we are, nearly seven years later, on the threshold of what everyone hopes will be a memorable month of football.
There have been numerous hiccups along the way and in the race to be ready for the tournament corners have been cut, but here’s hoping that on July 13, when the winning captain receives the FIFA World Cup trophy, all we will be talking about will have been a wonderful festival of football.
But, before the party begins, the man who runs the football has decided to bring us all back down to earth by vowing to go on and on. Yes, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has confirmed that he will stand for re-election in next year’s elections. It’s not how we’d have liked to kick off our coverage, but from here on in, it is safe to assume that things can only get better…