Brazil were able to grab the 2-1 lead against Croatia late in the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, but they needed some help from the referee.
In the 69th minute of an even match, which Brazil won 3-1, Brazilian forward Fred had the ball in the box before going down with an apparent foul:
Referee Yuichi Nishimura called a foul on Dejan Lovren and presented him with a yellow card, which resulted in a free-kick. Needless to say, this was quite a controversial decision.
Ian Darke explained his point of view on the ESPN broadcast, via Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe:
Ian Darke: "Brazil leads, 2-1, amidst raging controversy!" A totally BOGUS penalty kick awarded. World Cup off and running.— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) June 12, 2014
Fox and NBC Sports each provided their thoughts on the manner:
Call was given when Lovren was alleged to have fouled Fred. A very, very, very, harsh call. If not just outright wrong.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) June 12, 2014
Brazil takes a 2-1 lead on Croatia after a VERY controversial call led to a Neymar penalty kick. #WorldCup— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 12, 2014
English footballer Joseph Barton of QPR was not happy with the call either:
Shame on you ref. Absolute joke.— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 12, 2014
On the other hand, Mark Mravic of Sports Illustrated provided insight as to why the foul was called:
As a defender, you cannot put your arm on a shoulder like that and dare the ref to call it.— Mark Mravic (@MarkMravic) June 12, 2014
Either way, the call was made and Neymar stepped up from the spot in what became an adventure of its own:
The young star was able to score his second goal of the match to put his team ahead, but Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa almost stopped it. Despite the close call and the controversy, though, the goal will count in the scoresheet as Brazil started the tournament off with three points.
Oscar was able to extend the lead in the final minutes to secure the win, but it is clear that the penalty made a big change in the momentum.
Despite the controversial result, both teams will hope to move past the foul and work to advance out of Group A and into the knockout stage.
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