The 2014 FIFA World Cup got off to an entertaining (if slightly rocky) start on the afternoon of Thursday, June 12. The opening match, which pitted home team Brazil against group stage competitors, Croatia, gave Brazil fans their first chance to don a Brazil 2014 World Cup home jersey and cheer the home team toward a record sixth World Cup victory. However, if the opening match is to set the tone for the World Cup, then the Brazil team may not be seasoned or polished enough to take the title.
Going into the June 12th bout between Brazil and Croatia, everyone knew that it was going to be one of the key matches of the tournament, if only because it would offer an indication of how the Brazil team would perform with the adrenaline, excitement, and unbelievable pressure of playing at home. Just looking at the numbers, the final score for the game (3-1 with Brazil on top) proves that this summer's home squad is a true contender for the World Cup title, and that future Brazil football shirts could bear six victory stars instead of five.
However, looking closer at the actual gameplay, it's unclear if the Brazil 2014 World Cup home jersey is the uniform of a championship team, or merely the garb of a squad with an excess of raw talent, but without the experience necessary to defeat global heavyweights like Spain and Germany.
The First Half
Brazil came into match one not only strongly favored to beat Croatia, but also as a favorite to win the entire tournament. As a result, the world was shocked when Brazil fell to a 0-1 deficit only 11 minutes into the match. Even more surprising was the fact that the goal was scored by Marcelo, one of Brazil's star defenders, who accidentally ran the soccer ball into his own goal.
Marcelo's mistake was a colossal humiliation, Brazil's first own goal in World Cup history, and an incredibly troubling way for the team to start off the most important event in all of soccer. Understandably, it left the 62,000-plus fans in attendance at Sau Paolo's Arena Corinthians many of them bedecked in Brazil football shirts and other team gear in shocked silence.
However, while Marcelo's disastrous mistake will undoubtedly go down in World Cup history as one of the bigger blunders that a top-contending team has made, it also gave Brazil a chance to pull off a come from behind victory against a team whose players were kept scoreless all game. It fell to star forward/winger Neymar to clean up Marcelo's mess and redeem the Brazil 2014 World Cup home jersey, which he started doing with a beautiful off-the-post goal 29 minutes in.
The Second Half
Neymar's goal went a long way toward neutralizing the tension in the stadium, but it was merely one bright spot in a sloppy and inconsistent game for Brazil. Croatia played strong defense during the second half, clearly missing its top scorer (Mario Mandzukic, suspended on a red card penalty in the World Cup qualification round), but otherwise doing good work in staving off the attacks of the talented Brazil squad.
The tide shifted in favor of the Brazil football shirts when forward Fred Chaves Guedes tumbled to the ground following minimal contact with Dejan Lovren, a Croatian defender. Many viewers even fans of the Brazilian squad thought the tumble looked like a dive, but the referee was convinced and awarded a penalty for Brazil that changed the direction of the game. Neymar took the penalty shot and netted an easy point to give Brazil the lead, and Oscar scored another penalty shot in the dying moments of the match to bring the score to 3-1.
On paper, the 3-1 win looks almost decisive in favor of Brazil, but from looking at the actual play-by-play of the action, it's clear that this team still has some kinks left to iron out. It's possible that the inconsistent performance came as a result of the pressure the Brazil players are feeling from their country to win a World Cup at home, but regardless of the reason, Neymar and company might have some work to do before they are ready to meet more challenging opponents.
Do you think Brazil can overcome this lukewarm start to become a championship team? Head to Soccer Box today and pick up a Brazil home jersey to cheer the team on!