The first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was touted to be an easy roll over for Brazil and the score 3 – 1 was no surprise to many. What surprised me was the fight that Croatia put up. Brazil managed to put the ball in the net and the goals on the board but it was definitely not easy. the had to fight hard for it.
Brazil was made to sweat in the midfield mainly as they lacked any sort or fire power in the front or compactness in the back. This left the 1-5-4 formation adopted by Scolari a wise choice. Croatia on the other had were much more focused in defense which restricted the constant pressure put on by Dani Alves and Oscar. The Croatians were playing a dual playmaking style with Olic, Mordic and Rakitic holding and passing the ball dissecting the Brazilians time and again.
BRAZIL – Neymar scored a brace and showed glimpses of why he is being touted as the next big thing. He was helped by the fact that Scolari kept moving him front center to right to left allowing him to find a rhythm while offsetting Croatia’s. His 1st goal was a long range effort that barely squeezed in while his 2nd was an elaborate penalty that din’t fool the goalkeeper but still went in. The football Gods were shining on him. The less said about Fred (Who hardly touched the ball), Hulk (Who looked out of place), Paulino (Who seemed confused) and T. Silva (Who was having a tough time) the better. My star pick for the Brazil team is someone who I never thought I would mention along the the word “consistent” in the same sentence – Oscar. His relentless runs and questioning passes troubled Croatia the most in the match. His goal at the end was not only a good testament to his performance in the match but was probably the most “intended” goal of the match.
CROATIA – Well knit and solid side. Were unlucky in this match and managed to give Brazil a run for their money when the whole world expected them to be steamrolled. Mordic was somehow lackluster in his performance when the whole world expected him to be the saving grace in a relatively unknown side. Ratikic was industrious as usual creating good openings in the star studded Brazilian midfield. Goalkeeper Pletikosa pulled of a number of saves and had his fingertips on 2 goals including the penalty. My star in the side would have to be Olic. His performance in the match was world class and he managed to make Dani Alves look completely out of his skin. He was also instrumental in creating the goal that eventually went down as an own goal by Marcelo.
On the whole an entertaining match that until the last few minutes felt like it could swing both ways. A few refereeing errors resulted in the penalty awarded to Brazil, a disallowed goal for Croatia and a few questionable fouls. The referees need to be more on top of their game. Brazil’s open defense is a point of concern as stronger teams will easily pick them apart. Modric was playing a restrained game with no long range efforts. The pressure of the 1st game could have been a factor and if either team is to lay a claim to the Cup, they will have to pump up their game a notch.