Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

World Cup: Neymar double gives Brazil a nervy opening win over Croatia

By James Masters, CNN
updated 11:53 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Brazilian midfielder Oscar celebrates with a heart gesture after he <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/12/football/gallery/world-cup-goals/index.html'>scored a goal</a> to give his team a 3-1 win over Croatia in the opening match of the World Cup on Thursday, June 12. It was the first day of the international soccer tournament, which is being held in 12 cities across Brazil. Brazilian midfielder Oscar celebrates with a heart gesture after he scored a goal to give his team a 3-1 win over Croatia in the opening match of the World Cup on Thursday, June 12. It was the first day of the international soccer tournament, which is being held in 12 cities across Brazil.
HIDE CAPTION
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
World Cup: The best photos from June 12
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil defeats Croatia 3-1 in Thursday's World Cup opener
  • Marcelo own-goal gives European side an early lead in Sao Paulo
  • Neymar then scores twice for Brazil and Oscar seals win late
  • Mexico faces Cameroon in second Group A game on Friday

How are you celebrating the World Cup? Join the global conversation on CNN's Facebook Pulse

(CNN) -- Nervy, unconvincing and fortuitous -- but Brazil could scarcely care less.

On a night where its players finally stepped into the high-pressure cauldron atmosphere of the World Cup on home soil, Brazil found a way to win.

Gone are the days of "FĂștbol Arte" or "Joga Bonito" -- the beautiful game -- this current generation cannot compete with that of 1970 or 1982.

But it does possess its own heroes -- and when Brazil needed him most, Neymar, for so long the face of this World Cup, stepped up and delivered.

His two goals, the second a highly controversial penalty awarded in a farcical manner by referee Yuichi Nishimura, ensured Brazil triumphed 3-1 over Croatia in Thursday's opening match.

Oscar's stoppage-time strike ensured a party atmosphere in Sao Paulo -- though it did not prevent protesters from assembling outside the stadium immediately after the contest.

In a week where politics has overshadowed sport, this was the result the entire country had hoped for and rounded off a day which had begun in worrying fashion.

Earlier Thursday, violence erupted in Sao Paulo as police clashed with protesters around 11 kilometers from the stadium.

Critics are furious with the Brazilian government for spending $11 billion on the World Cup instead of low-income housing, hospitals and schools.

Inside the arena, the country's president Dilma Rousseff was booed by the crowd despite her attempt to keep a low profile.

But any frustration at the political problems which have overshadowed the lead-up to the tournament were temporarily placed on hold.

As the Brazilian team lined up for the national anthem, those draped in yellow rose to salute not just their heroes -- but their entire homeland.

This was not a simple song -- this was a war cry, a call to arms to relieve the pain and struggle of daily life, and the disaster of 1950.

Not since that year has Brazil hosted the tournament.

For 64 years the nation has waited to exorcize the demons of its darkest day in football.

Brazil, needing just a draw to win the tournament, led 1-0 at halftime against Uruguay and appeared destined for greatness.

Medals were engraved, newspapers were published at halftime declaring Brazil champion of the world.

It was set to be the biggest celebration the country had ever witnessed -- but nobody remembered to tell Uruguay.

Juan Alberto Schiaffino equalized to stun the home crowd as the visiting team began to sense fear inside the Maracana Stadium.

And then, it happened -- the moment that brought about what would be known as Brazil's "Hiroshima" moment.

Brazil goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa allowed an effort from Alcides Ghiggia to roll underneath his body and into the net -- Uruguay was crowned champion.

For Barbosa, life would never be the same.

Even though he was named goalkeeper of the tournament he was scapegoated and never allowed to forget his error until he passed away in 2000.

"Under Brazilian law the maximum sentence is 30 years," Barbosa remarked on his 79th birthday, just two weeks before he passed away. "But my imprisonment has been for 50 years."

Brazil's players are no strangers to the history of their nation -- the yearning to erase the pain of 1950 has been with each and every generation who have pulled on the famous yellow jersey.

So when Marcelo inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net after 11 minutes, you could have forgiven those draped in yellow for looking to the heavens.

Croatia, which finished third at the 1998 World Cup, deserved the lead -- though it came in fortuitous circumstances after Nikica Jelavic's miscued effort was turned in by the Real Madrid defender.

Buoyed by the goal, Croatia appeared full of confidence and could have had a second when Jelavic peeled away at the far post only to send his header straight at Julio Cesar.

Shocked and stunned by conceding, Brazil slowly but surely wrestled its way back into the contest.

And in Neymar, the team has a player ready to carry the nation on his shoulders.

So much pressure has been placed on the 22-year-old, who endured a difficult first season at Spanish club Barcelona, but this is the moment he has been waiting for.

And when his country needed him, he responded. With 29 minutes played, Neymar took advantage of the space in front of him before unleashing a low 25-yard drive which flew into the corner.

As the ball hit the back of the net it was as if a pressure valve had been released -- joy unconfined, thousands hugging, dancing, kissing and glancing skywards to offer prayers of gratitude.

This was Brazil, resplendent in its yellow and blue, pushing forward. And when it needed it most, it had the luck too.

With 20 minutes of normal time remaining, referee Nishimura adjudged that Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred and pointed to the penalty spot.

Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup. Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup.
Goooal! Keeping score at the World Cup
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: Every goal from the World Cup Photos: Every goal from the World Cup
A demonstrator argues with police during a protest against the World Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Saturday, June 14. The buildup to the World Cup has been plagued by mass demonstrations over the estimated $11 billion cost of staging the football tournament. Many protesters, angered by the state of Brazil's public services, believe the money would have been better spent elsewhere. A demonstrator argues with police during a protest against the World Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Saturday, June 14. The buildup to the World Cup has been plagued by mass demonstrations over the estimated $11 billion cost of staging the football tournament. Many protesters, angered by the state of Brazil's public services, believe the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Protests at the World Cup
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
Photos: Protests at the World Cup Photos: Protests at the World Cup
At one time in our lives, we've all done it. A spur of the moment decision that will haunt us forever. Whether it's that snap decision to get you hair braided on a beach holiday, or buying those white cords that you're convinced will look great with your blue suede shoes. Bad style choices are a universal affliction, and one football is not immune to. As we prepare to celebrate the finest footballers on the planet at Brazil 2014, it's also an ideal time to recoil in horror at some of the more outrageous styles the tournament has thrown up in its 84-year history. At one time in our lives, we've all done it. A spur of the moment decision that will haunt us forever. Whether it's that snap decision to get you hair braided on a beach holiday, or buying those white cords that you're convinced will look great with your blue suede shoes. Bad style choices are a universal affliction, and one football is not immune to. As we prepare to celebrate the finest footballers on the planet at Brazil 2014, it's also an ideal time to recoil in horror at some of the more outrageous styles the tournament has thrown up in its 84-year history.
The Oh-so beautiful game
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
>
>>
Photos: Crazy World Cup styles Photos: Crazy World Cup styles

It was a bewildering decision, with television pictures clearly showing that the Brazil striker had fallen over and not been dragged down by Lovren.

While the Croatian players raged at the Japanese official, Neymar steadied himself and took the spot kick, only just beating Stipe Pletikosa from 12 yards.

"If that's how we start the World Cup, we'd better give it up now and go home," Croatia coach Niko Kovac told reporters after the game.

"We talk about respect, that wasn't respect, Croatia didn't get any.

"If that's a penalty, we don't need to play football anymore. Let's play basketball instead, it's a shame."

With Croatia riled by the injustice, it attempted to respond almost immediately and Ivan Perisic thought he had equalized only to be denied by the referee's whistle.

Luka Modric's long-range drive then forced Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar into a scramble as Croatia pushed on in search of the goal to draw it level.

But just as Brazil appeared to be hanging on, a moment of magic from its most impressive player on the night, Oscar, ensured victory.

A sweeping counter-attack allowed the midfielder to run clear before toe-poking the ball past Pletikosa to secure victory.

Brazil will face Mexico in its next game on June 17 in Fortaleza.

Mexico begins its Group A campaign against Cameroon on Friday, when there is a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final in Group B with champion Spain taking on Netherlands.

Friday's final game sees Chile take on Australia.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Keep track of the social buzz at Brazil 2014 with CNN's Facebook Pulse -- find out who the world is talking about.
updated 6:49 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
It needed 120 minutes to separate the best two teams on the planet, but Mario Gotze's sublime strike gives Germany a fourth World Cup title.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
After 64 games, some huge shocks and 171 goals scored, now it's time to play fantasy football -- who would you pick in a World Cup dream team?
updated 6:55 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Germany won the World Cup, but these stats suggest that the host nation came top of the table at Brazil 2014 -- despite a crushing semifinal defeat.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Bare bellies, an on-pitch streaker, world leaders and superstar selfies -- the World Cup final had it all.
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
Having crushed home hopes of success, Germany prevents Brazil's worst nightmare by beating the World Cup host's South American rival in final.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
One of the joys of watching the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players to watch at Russia 2018.
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Stay informed with results of the latest World Cup matches and the full schedule for the month-long tournament in Brazil.
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
In the sight of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, the man who would be king awaits his destiny.
updated 1:15 PM EDT, Sat July 12, 2014
Germany's semifinal demolition of World Cup host Brazil in Belo Horizonte is the game that seemingly everyone can't stop talking about.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
One of the joys of the World Cup is seeing relative unknowns come to the fore. Here are 11 players who have made their mark at Brazil 2014:
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
You thought Brazil's home humiliation was bad? Check out the greatest shocks in World Cup history...
ADVERTISEMENT