It’s back. Despite having to endure the shambolic ITV commentary of the opening ceremony (which felt longer than the 4 years since the curtain fell on the last World Cup) last night was probably everything we could have hoped for in an opening day. Brazil won, Neymar scored and the game was far more competitive than most people expected.
The 3-1 scoreline certainly flatters Brazil, Croatia are rightly angry that they left empty handed. Lovren’s challenge on Fred certainly didn’t look enough to make the forward go down, especially in the manner he did and they were unlucky to have a goal disallowed following what looked a routine challenge from Olic.
The hosts will be happy to have got off to a perfect start, the pressure will be somewhat eased from their shoulders, especially for Neymar, his 2 goals seem to have justified his poster boy status. However, the result does paper over the cracks, defensively Brazil looked a bit of a shambles and Julio Cesar looks shaky.
Whilst Neymar undoubtedly stole the show, it was Chelsea’s Oscar who shone the brightest. The midfielder who has been in and out of the Chelsea since February looked well rested as a result, his goal in the 90th minute capped a perfect performance. He set up Neymar’s first, a mishit shot that rolled into the corner and played the ball into Fred when Lovren was adjudged to have fouled him.
His tireless running up and down the right, a position not many Chelsea fans have seen him occupy. He covered well for the overly adventurous Dani Alves, making 4 tackles, the second highest of any player. He completed 7 dribbles successfully, one more than Neymar and the most on the pitch.
He created 3 chances, including the equaliser, and had a pass accuracy of 83%. He had a 100% shot accuracy with both of his shots being on target. All in all it was a complete midfield performance, if Brazil are to go far Oscar will be key to that.
From Croatia’s point of view, they were at times overrun in midfield, shown by the fact they had just 39% possession. Their game plan was clearly to try and hit Brazil on the counter attack, but what they lacked was more discipline in the centre of park.
Modric, Rakitic and Kovavic all wanted to go forward, they weren’t strong enough in the tackle and lacked the positional awareness Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho had for Brazil. Modric made no tackles, he needs to be playing further forward if Croatia are to get the most out of him. Similarly, for Barcelona target Rakitic.
Wolfsburg’s Ivan Perisic looked dangerous on the ball, he delivered an early cross that Olic should have done better with. His 5 crosses was the highest of any player, more than the entire Brazil team. With Mandzukic to return from suspension for the remaining group games, Perisic will be a real threat for the Bayern striker.
I saw enough of Croatia to think they’ll be able to progress from the group. They were unlucky not to be able to get something from the game and they enough quality in their ranks to beat both Cameroon and Mexico.
Statistics courtesy of whoscored.com