It finally happened, and after a four year wait since Spain took the trophy home at Johannesburg in “South Africa 2010” against the Netherlands, today Brazil and Croatia played the first of a 64 game tournament called the FIFA World Cup.
Before the ball started rolling the Inauguration Ceremony, which viewing audience is estimated around 1 billion by some sources, seemed to be colorful but not as strong or completely representative of a country with 200 million people living on it. At least I was expecting more samba and costumes like the ones they use in the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro before lent begins.
Media outlets reported that safety was highly taken into consideration for this game, with a periphery of 5 blocks around the stadium blocked only for those with tickets to the game that would start it all. Among the surprises in the opening ceremony was the presence of the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff who had already skipped on opening FIFA’s Congress taking place in the host country. Jennifer Lopez, who sings the tournaments official song alongside Pitbull and Claudia Leitte made the last minute decision to attend the event.
But once the stage was taken down it was time for 22 players plus the Brazuca to take center stage. At the Arena de Sao Paulo Croatia got things going and within the first minutes showed that they were not scared of the stage and playing against the favorite team to take it all Brazil. Their up-tempo playing speed led to a huge mistake by Marcelo (BRA), who scored the 37th own goal in the history of World Cups but the first one for Brazil in the history of the biggest tournament organized by FIFA.
That goal made Croatia take an early lead on the game after Marcelo pushed the ball into the back of his own net after what seemed a weak cross from Ivica Olic. It would be Neymar (Brazil’s star) who tied things up by shooting from outside the box and finding the bottom-left corner of Croatia’s goal. It would take a mistake by the referee to give Brazil the lead. Fred acts like he is being pulled by a croatian defender and the referee Yuichi Nishimura signaled the penalty spot. Neymar nearly missed his chance but the power on his strike was the key to avoid failure 11-steps away from goal as he saw the ball going the goalkeepers hands.
Croatia died trying to even things out but just as we were going into stoppage time Oscar took matters into his own feet and scored for the host team to leave Croatia stunned with a 3-1 goal lead just minutes away from the end. Five minutes later it was all over. Mexico vs Cameroon will close the first round action for group A tomorrow in Natal. Followed by the revenge of the past World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.
Neymar who now has 33 goals with his national team will play Mexico next tuesday to try and clinch Brazil’s ticket to the second round of the tournament. Croatia will play Cameroon for its first three points of the competition. 63 games to go in the FIFA World Cup.