World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 1 with Neymar, Oscar and Ivica Olic

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

World Cup 2014: Best XI of Day 1 with Neymar, Oscar and Ivica Olic

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    The opening day of the 2014 FIFA World Cup has seen Brazil beat Croatia by a 3-1 scoreline, with national hero Neymar netting two of the goals.

    Throughout the World Cup we'll be running a day-by-day Best XI, and though we've only got one match to choose our stars from on this occasion, we'll quickly pick up the pace and have six or eight teams fighting for a spot in our side.

    Here are the best performers from the opening night, with no prizes for guessing that the two-goal forward is one of the star names involved.

GK: Julio Cesar, BRZ

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    The goalkeeper could have gone to either player right up until the final moments; Julio Cesar had made a spill and Stipe Pletikosa should have saved Neymar's penalty.

    Then came a one-minute spell which shaped the outcome of the match, very late on, and thus our goalkeeping selection was made too.

    Cesar pulled off a terrific save low to his right, preventing Croatia from equalising at 2-2, before Brazil went straight up the other end and scored, beating Pletikosa low to his right from some distance, where again he should have done better.

    That's the difference between a good goalkeeper and an average one—a result on the opening day at the World Cup.

RB: Darijo Srna, CRO

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    Croatia right-back and captain Darijo Srna was a solid presence in defence, preventing Hulk from having any real kind of impact at all and putting in some big challenges to break up Brazil's attacking moves down their left flank.

    He also got forward a few times, supporting rather than driving on into the attacking third, and twice his set piece delivery from the channels caused a half-chance for his side.

    A decent first game for Srna.

CB: Thiago Silva, BRZ

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    Thiago Silva, Brazil's captain, also gets the nod.

    The centre-back was strong in the air, covered well to make a handful of clearances when Brazil's defence was turned around, and largely kept Nikica Jelavic extremely quiet.

    He was certainly the more composed and reliable of the two centre-backs and did his duty well.

CB: Dejan Lovren, CRO

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    Dejan Lovren impressed for much of the game for Croatia, though he struggled when faced with an attacker running directly at him.

    He conceded the penalty which put Brazil ahead but there appeared to be very little, if anything, in the hand on Fred which was adjudged to have been a foul.

    Reliable, if unimaginative, in distributing the ball from the back, the left-sided central defender was solid and can be mostly pleased with his performance.

LB: Marcelo, BRZ

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    Marcelo scored an own goal after only 10 minutes of the match, but recovered from that to be a good option for his team at both ends of the pitch.

    In the first half he was more concerned with breaking forward into space, looking to link up with Hulk and trying to find passes into the final third. After the break he was more defensively worked, with Croatia enjoying more possession, but stood up to the task well and was the more impressive of Brazil's full-backs.

RM: Oscar, BRZ

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    Oscar started on the right flank for Brazil rather than in his usual No. 10 role, but he was excellent in the first half and Brazil's most regular outlet.

    During the course of the game he sent over four fantastic crosses from wide on the pitch, causing real danger each time, while he also beat his man regularly for pace and power.

    Hard work, an intelligent appreciation of when to come narrow and good use of the ball made it a great start for Oscar at the World Cup—while his last-minute goal was the icing on the cake for him.

CM: Paulinho, BRZ

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    Paulinho featured for a little more than an hour before being substituted, as Croatia began to get on top in the second half.

    His first-half performance was excellent though, with his customary driving runs into the penalty box from deep twice causing real danger for Brazil.

    There had been some discussion over whether he might get the nod to play, but his first-half performance justified his spot in the side.

CM: Luka Modric, CRO

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    Luka Modric operated as one of the two central midfield players for Croatia and, though not as impressive in the early stages as his partner Ivan Rakitic, over the course of the game he put in a more reliable and consistent display.

    His ball use was quietly effective, he held his position and worked the midfield spaces well off the ball and also made a few hefty challenges in the middle in lieu of a true holding player.

    Croatia dominated possession more after the break, with Modric recycling deep and looking to support his attacking team-mates, but wasn't really a threat in the final third himself.

LM: Olic, CRO

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    Ivica Olic was a big danger from the wing for Croatia, before moving into the centre-forward position late on in the game after a substitution.

    His pace and power frequently saw him best Dani Alves on the counter, while he sent over a number of telling low crosses from the left, including for the opening goal.

    Olic was harshly penalised for a foul on Julio Cesar late on which otherwise may have yielded an equaliser for 2-2.

AM: Bernard, BRZ

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    Bernard came on as a substitute but made a very lively impression, playing down the left flank but also cutting infield and finding spaces centrally on counter-attacking opportunities.

    He performed more effectively, and certainly caused more excitement in the stands, in his 20 minutes or so on the pitch than Hulk had managed in the previous 70.

    Good skill, acceleration and a willingness to continually run at his man were his best traits as he looks to force his way into the Brazil starting XI.

CF: Neymar, BRZ

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    Neymar was always going to have a big impact on the opening day and so it proved, with him scoring the first goal of the tournament for Brazil and having a generally positive impact on play for most of the game.

    A few of his final passes were a little off target but he dribbled past players well, always looked to be adventurous when receiving the ball at his feet and took up good positions in space behind the Croatian midfield line.

    He also netted the penalty for 2-1—albeit with a bit of fortune.