Saturday, 14 June 2014

Oscar shines brightest as Brazil grind out opening-night win over Croatia

And breathe. After weeks and months and years of expectation and build-up, Brazil got the World Cup underway with the victory that 200 million souls so dearly craved.

But while a 3-1 scoreline implies a level of comfort, the success over Croatia was what locals might call a "vitória suada" – a sweaty victory. Brazil were made to work for their reward at the Arena São Paulo, forced to dig deep after Marcelo's misfortune had given their visitors the lead in the opening stages. From that point, this was always going to be a battle rather than a victory march.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. It was Neymar (who else?) who dragged Luiz Felipe Scolari's side level, guiding a shot past Stipe Pletikosa on 29 minutes. "I didn't mean to hit it that softly," he later laughed, but the relief on the field at that moment was palpable. A fresh start. A clean slate.

The Barcelona striker would go on to add a second and it surprised few when he was named FIFA's man of the match. But he was outshone on the night by one of his colleagues.

Read the rest of this piece on the Yahoo! Eurosport site.

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