Brazil began the 2014 World Cup with a bang, scoring four goals in the opening match.
One was in its own goal, but still.
While Brazil wasn't perfect, it showed everyone why it entered the World Cup a 3-1 favorite to win it all according to OddsShark. Croatia needed help from Marcelo to avoid a shutout.
Thanks to Neymar—and, depending on who you ask, controversial calls—Brazil went on to beat Croatia in Thursday's opener by the score of 3-1. Here are updated group standings following Day 1's action.
Brazil's Thursday ended on a high, but it couldn't have started much lower. Just 11 minutes into the match, the World Cup favorites found themselves losing what was supposed to be a coming-out party in their own house. Marcelo achieved every soccer players' worst nightmare: scoring in his own goal in the World Cup.
Only 18 minutes of fear passed before Neymar bailed him out with a pinpoint shot off the right pole.
For much of the rest of the match, the scoreboard remained knotted at 1-1. Then 71 minutes in, Fred happened.
Whether he got fouled, lost his balance or intentionally dove, referees rewarded Brazil with a penalty kick and, once again, Neymar cashed in. But viewers weren't happy about it.
On Twitter, “Not a PK,” "#horriblecall," “#badcall” (for those who disagreed more graciously) and “#dive" began to trend. The fact that Croatia finished the game with 20 fouls called on it, compared to just five on Brazil, only gave more ammo to conspiracy theorists claiming the refs rewarded Brazil with some home cooking.
Ninety minutes in, Oscar nailed another shot for style points.
While Croatia was in striking distance, or led, throughout, Brazil also controlled the ball. The favorites had possession 61 percent of the match according to ESPN. They also finished with twice as many shots on goal as Croatia.
Considering OddsShark listed Croatia as the greatest threat to Brazil in Group A, the favorites should feel confident about their performance.
It took Brazil some time to shake the rust off, but after it did, it controlled the match. Marcelo may need to score a few more times for the opposition before Brazil loses.
The other top contenders for the World Cup title are Argentina, Germany and Spain. According to OddsShark, Argentina enters with 4-1 odds, Germany 11-2 and Spain 6-1.
Spain won the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and will play its first match on Friday against the Netherlands. Germany headlines the Group of Death, which includes the United States.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.