Updated 02:04 AM EST, Sat, Dec 04, 2021

World Cup 2014 Recap: Brazil Wins Big Against Croatia

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Dia dos Namorados, Brazil's version of Valentine's Day, would have been a bad day to lose. Fortunately, the heartbreak of an 11th-minute own goal by the home team's Marcelo was the last point registered under Croatia in the 2014 World Cup's inaugural game that ended 3-1.

The yellow-splashed crowd at Arena de Sao Paulo had Neymar's twin goals and Oscar's excellence to thank for salvaging the dates, the Washington Post reported, adding the defensive work of Thiago Silva and a late save by Julio Cesar to the credits.

Just minutes after an Ivica Olic kick was accidentally run into Brazil's net by Marcelo, World Cup first-timer Neymar equalized.

A separate report by the New York Times observed how the point instantly made an angry crowd roar in joy.

When Neymar raced toward the bench, the Washington Post reported, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, the mind behind the Selecao's World Cup title 12 years ago, hugged the 22-year-old like a proud grandfather embracing a child.

The Brazilian supporters, dominating the 62,103-strong crowd, broke into a Portuguese chant: "The champion is back!"

Another goal in the 71st minute and a third point by Oscar in stoppage time helped the country, which hosts the World Cup this year only after 64 years, reset Brazil's title hopes.

"I am really very happy," the New York Times quoted Neymar as saying. "I think [I am] even happier than I dreamed I could be."

But around the cheers at the World Cup are controversies.

Aside from the political turmoil that prompted police to use tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters, the New York Times said, several hiccups also happened within it.

Workers hurried to finish construction as recently as Wednesday, the venue was missing chairs in a few areas and some floodlights temporarily went out during the first half.

But, the same publication comments, although these may spawn criticism, nothing else will be debated on more than the home team's poor performance.

Critics, among them the Croatian team's coach, said the win was thanks in no small part to the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura. He was referring to a decision which led to the penalty kick and second score by Neymar.

"If that is how we start the World Cup, we may as well go home," Niko Kovac said, as quoted by the Washington Post.

"If that is a penalty, we don't need to play football anymore," Kovac continued. "Let's play basketball... If we continue in this way, we will have a circus."

Scolari responded: "Brazil has five world championships. So we have seen five world circuses... Millions didn't see the penalty? Well, the referee did. I watched it 10 times. For me, it was a penalty."

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