The final score was 3-1 in the Samba Kings favor, but nevertheless a controversial penalty and weak goalkeeping gives Brazil the three points.
Byline: Jorge Belon, Editor in Chief
São Paulo— Neymar Jr. scores the winning goal by a penalty, to complete the comeback at the 71 minute of the second half to ease the anxiety of an entire nation.
The 22-year-old Brazilian playmaker might have scored the penalty, but the flop from Fred in the penalty box, gave Neymar the chance to give Brazil the 2-1 lead deep in the second half.
Neymar Jr. stepped up to take the penalty, a poorly hit shot going down the middle of the goal. Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa got two hands on the ball, but the strength of the shot bent the fingers of Pletikosa, and the ball floated into the back of the net.
The Brazilian fans exploded at the new Arena Corinthians. After the goal Croatia slowly began to lose control of the game.
“I am really very happy,” Neymar told the New York Times. “I think even happier than I dreamed I could be.”
However, Croatia would take the lead at the 11 minute of the first half with an own goal from Brazilian defender Marcelo. Croatian midfielder Ivica Olic sprinted down the right hand side of the field, and sent in a low but fast cross into the heart of the box.
The pass dinged off Croatian forward, and then found a surprised Marcelo, the Real Madrid defender attempted to react quickly, but the pace on the ball would make it difficult to control and eventually the ball rolled into the back of the net.
Brazil would manage to come back, with Neymar Jr. tying the game at the 29 minute. Oscar wrestled through three Croatian defenders a little below the center of the field, gave a quick short pass to Neymar. The Barcelona attacking midfielder received the ball, got pass one defender creating space for a possible long range shot.
He moved the ball towards the goal, but right outside the box Neymar shot the ball to the bottom right hand corner of the net. The ball kissed the post and tied the match 1-1.
The rest of the first half both teams were running up and down the field and searching for a second goal. Halftime arrived, and it seemed that the second half was going to be more explosive than the first half.
However, Brazil came out of the gates lethargic and Croatia failed to capitalize on the several opportunities that the Brazilian defense was giving away. Wasted chances would come back to punish the Croatians as Fred flopping in the penalty box was awarded, and Neymar would give Brazil the lead at the 71 minute.
“It has to do with playing here in Brazil,” Croatia’s Head Coach Niko Kovac told the New York Times, about the penalty being awarded to Brazil. “I think Brazil does not need any help from referees…it was ridiculous, if we continue in this vein, there will be 100 penalties in this World Cup.”
After that goal, Croatia would throw everything forward in attempts to tie the game. By attacking with desperation, the defense became vulnerable to Brazilian counters.
Oscar punished the thinly spread defense, by running with the ball a little below midfield, eluding three defenders; finally finishing the play with a long range low shot to the bottom left hand corner to seal the three points for Brazil by making the score 3-1 in the 91 minute of the match.
Brazil next match will be on Tuesday, June 17 when they face Mexico at the Estadio Castelao. The Brazilian will be attempting to clinch the birth for the second round with a victory over El Tri.
As for Croatia, they will be facing Cameroon on Wednesday, June 18. They will take a trip to the Amazon Forrest and play in the new stadium, Arena Amazonia. Croatia will need a victory to get their second round hopes back on track, and having forward Mario Mandžukić back from his one game suspension will help with the finishing.