World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 1
Brazil picked up a victory in the opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, defeating Croatia 3-1 after coming from behind.
Croatia can take heart from aspects of their performance despite the defeat, while Brazil will be pleased at getting off to a winning start on home soil.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the first day of the tournament.
Pre-Game Winner and Loser: Kovacic and Brozovic
Early reports of the Croatia team, an hour before kick-off, saw a starting midfield pairing of Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic, the latter a young midfielder still playing in his home country and having made his senior international debut only a week earlier.
Not too long after, an alternative XI was announced—without Brozovic and with Mateo Kovacic in his place.
The Inter Milan playmaker did indeed take the pitch, in a far more advanced role, leaving Ivan Rakitic to partner Modric centrally, before eventually being replaced by Brozovic as a substitute.
Perhaps the biggest loser here is whoever released the initial Croatia lineup.
Marcelo was the first real villain for the host nation as he put through a goal in his own net after barely 10 minutes of play at the World Cup.
The left-back was unable to adjust his feet after Nikica Jelavic scuffed a shot more or less at goal, with the defender ending up poking it over the line for the opening goal of the 2014 tournament.
He recovered to put in a good overall performance, but it was the complete opposite to the start of the World Cup he would have wanted.
Neymar was always going to score on the first day of the World Cup, though plenty probably thought he might score the opening goal rather than the equaliser.
The forward's driving runs, impressive dribbles and arrowed shot led to the score being evened up at 1-1, while he was also creative in the first half and looked to help his side counter after the break when they had less possession.
A penalty was tucked away—just about—to put his side up 2-1 as he moved clear ahead on the fledgling top scorers chart.
Loser: The Referee
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura made a few dodgy calls during the course of the game, and most of them went very much in Brazil's favour.
The penalty was dubious at best, a blatant wrong call at worst, while the disallowing of Croatia's "equaliser" due to a foul by Ivica Olic on Julio Cesar was also extremely harsh.
The Croatians might also point to a yellow card handed to Neymar for an elbow in the first half before he later scored twice in the match.
Oscar was the clear man of the match for the opening game, putting in a tremendous shift on the right side of Brazil's midfield.
His running with the ball was exceptional, his delivery from the flank even better—and he even scored the final goal of the match late on to wrap up a 3-1 win.
Oscar didn't start in his usual role, through the middle, but was the most impressive player on the pitch nonetheless.
Overall, there is only one thing that matters: three points on the opening day.
Brazil have done that, beating arguably their biggest rivals in Group A, and will look forward to Friday's matches with interest—a draw between Mexico and Cameroon would give the South American side a chance to qualify for the knockouts after just two games.
One down, six more to go if Brazil are to taste ultimate glory in their own country.
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