The Day in 100 Words or Less
It was a day for football fans to try and set aside their consciences and allow what happens on the field to distract them away from the happenings in Brazil. It was a day where the host nation were asked to open the tournament and show us what they were made of: A day that the history books will show as a win for Brazil but ultimately the bigger story was much more than that.
- Croatia deserved a chance to show us what they were made of. For 70 minutes they were rightfully level with the World Cup favourites. It could have been an acid test for Niko Kovac's side to see what they could accomplish. Unfortunately, they were robbed of that opportunity.
- It was a very unfortunate moment. Many eyes were on this game that rarely glance at a soccer match and when referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot in the 70th minute the world asked: "Why?"
The Japanese official adjudged that Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred but the truth was he placed his hand on his shoulders and the Fluminense man went down.
- With the world watching it was hard not to feel sadness. In the opening act of the game's greatest carnival, one man's massive error in judgment had turned the spectacle into a farce.
- It then became Neymar's day. For a 22-year-old making his World Cup debut in Brazil, wearing the famous number 10 shirt, he showed a remarkable amount of poise. He had already scored one, gliding into space provided by Oscar, before unleashing a shot passed Stipe Pletikosa and then, at 1-1, he had the nation's hopes placed on his right foot.
- The referee handed the ball to Neymar at 69:30 and he placed it on the spot at 69:38. He then waited and waited and waited some more before placing the ball into the net 50 seconds after he put it down on the ground. I am not sure what was going through Neymar's mind during those 50 seconds but he showed no sign of pressure in one of the most intense moments in recent Brazilian football history.
- Croatia, led by the intelligence of Luka Modric, didn't go down easily and the game remained remarkably open until the final stages when Oscar finished it off.
- We may never see another game at this World Cup that was this stretched. Brazil worked the flanks the entire game and two of Croatia's most dangerous attacks (one on which was their goal) came from crosses wide in the opening 10 minutes.
- Remarkably, less than 18 per cent of Brazil's attacks came through the middle.
Man of the Day
Neymar – a brace from Mr. Box Office in the biggest game of his young life put his face in newspapers across the globe.
Oscar – The Chelsea playmaker had a brilliant game and showed just why Luiz Felipe Scolari cared little for his poor form at Chelsea in the last few months of the Premier League season.
Luka Modric – Brazil's two central midfielders had a very difficult time against the Real Madrid man, who was very intelligent with his passing and feasted on space when countering.
Ivan Perisic – the Croatian winger had a very good game and it will be interesting to see if other players, asked to play against Brazil's left side attacker, can be influential because Hulk - used a lot on the left - showed little appetite to track back.
Yuichi Nishimura – the referee made a monumental mistake. Some on social media jumped to an assumption of match-fixing. Everyone needs to be very careful when drawing a line between incompetence and intentional error.
Oscar was sensational. Many expected him to play centrally but he occupied a wide right position, tracking back and winning all four tackles he attempted. Brazil clearly had a plan to attack down the right but it was the 22-year-old's exceptional play certainly helped emphasize that method.
Oscar has the potential to be the best player at this World Cup. He is so versatile, he can be three players in one. He is capable of coming deep and helping out the two central midfielders, can move wide and pull defenders with him to open up space centrally (which is what happened on Neymar's first goal) and he can advance and run beyond all, pulling opposing back lines deeper. Brazil may need to change their style against a top team later in the tournament, potentially bringing in a Ramires or Fernandinho for Hulk, for example, and Scolari was given food for thought on day one for this because of the brilliance of Oscar out wide.
Dani Alves was the biggest beneficiary of Oscar's positioning. The Barcelona right back was culpable on the opening goal, pressing higher than anyone on Pletikosa as Croatia started an attack, but as the game settled down so did the 30-year-old. Between them they created a dynamic duo with overlaps and easily led the game in total pass completions between team-mates.
What Comes Next?
Day 2 sees Mexico vs Cameroon (Noon et/9am pt), Spain vs Netherlands (3pm et/Noon pt) and Chile vs Australia (6pm et/3pm pt). Catch all the game live on the TSN radio networks.
Burning Question for Tomorrow
Will a young Dutch team be brave enough to play a back three and counter a potentially vulnerable Spanish team?
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