Brazil wins opening match against Croatia

Neymar stole the show as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil's forward Neymar celebrates scoring during a Group A football match between Brazil and Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12, 2014.  Picture: AFP

SAO PAULO - Neymar scored twice and the outstanding Oscar added a late third as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia 3-1 in the World Cup opening match on Thursday.

The game tipped the host's way after a controversial 71st-minute penalty was awarded when Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura harshly ruled that Croatia skipper Dejan Lovren had hauled down Fred, when it clearly looked as though the Brazil striker threw himself to the ground.

After the Croatian players furiously remonstrated with Nishimura, Neymar kept his composure and put Brazil ahead for the first time with a right-foot penalty which Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa got a hand to but could not save.

Apart from that misjudgement Nishimura controlled the superbly-balanced game well as both teams went looking for goals and created chances at both ends.

Neymar, under enormous pressure to produce the kind of football that could lead Brazil to their sixth World Cup, did not disappoint with some stunning passes and moves as he held off some rigorous challenges by the Croatians.

He hauled Brazil back into the game after 29 minutes with the equalizer after defender Marcelo put through his own net after 11 minutes to give Croatia a shock lead.

Brazilians clearly wanted one of their team to score the first goal of the finals, but not in the way it came about and Marcelo's misfortune meant he became the first Brazilian ever to score an own goal at the World Cup.

Neymar then created Brazil's first opening when he jinked along the byline, resulting in a half-cleared ball to Oscar who slammed in a curling 25-metre drive that Pletikosa acrobatically pushed away.

But Croatia's reprieve only lasted seven minutes and the equalizer was greeted by scenes of unbridled joy by Brazilian fans and players with fireworks visible on the city skyline through the huge openings on the corners of the stadium.

Oscar, at the core of most of Brazil's attacks, started the move by beating two men in midfield before finding Neymar who advanced a few meters before cracking in a low left-foot shot that went in off the base of Pletikosa's left-hand post for his 32nd goal in his 50th international.

Neymar scored his 33rd with the penalty and although Croatia never stopped battling, Oscar wrapped up the win in the first minute of stoppage time with a low drive.

The action continues on Friday with Mexico taking on Cameroon, Spain host Netherlands in the pick of the evening before Chile and Australia battle it out in the third and final game.

Visit EWN's Soccer World Cup 2014 Portal.