Controversy reared its ugly head in the very first match of the world cup, as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1. Neymar scored two goals for Brazil in the 29th and 71st (PK) minutes, with Oscar scoring in the 91st minute. Croatia’s lone tally came from a Marcelo own goal.
The first half started off with a catastrophe for the host nation, as Marcelo accidentally knocked in a low crossing attempt from midfielder Ivica Olic, putting Croatia up 1-0. The Brazilian squad was practically asking for it, as their defensive effort was lackluster at best, with players like Alves and Marcelo lazily getting back and not challenging Croatian players, even when they were positioned just outside the box. However, it proved to be a wake up call for the home nation, as they started to put more pressure on the opposition through their classic style of possession and short passes. Pletikosa was kept busy, making several saves that included a beautiful diving save in the 22nd minute on Oscar. However, Brazil was finally able to break through in the 29th minute to tie the match, when Neymar scuffed a fairly weak shot on net that ended up being perfectly placed, going in the right corner, out of Pletikosa’s reach. Fireworks echoed in the distance as the crowd roared at the sight of a goal from the men in the classic yellow shirts. Brazil continued to dictate the pace of the match until the end of the half.
What started off as a quiet start to the second half became incredibly heated when a penalty kick was awarded to Brazil. In an awful display of sportsmanship, Fred was leaning against Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, and just slid down, raising his arms up as he hit the ground. Lovren didn’t even try to make contact with Fred during the play, but he was still given a Yellow Card by the Japanese referee, which brought Neymar to the penalty spot. Pletikosa almost made the save, but the ball deflected off of his hands, and Brazil took the lead 2-1. Each side exchanged chances with one another on each possession over the next 20 minutes, until Oscar was able to break through the Croatian back line, letting off a long shot that beat Pletikosa, resulting in the home side winning 3-1.
Normally, I give a player the “UGH Award” for being the unsung game hero, somebody who displayed guts and passion in his team’s effort. However, for this match, this is going to a player who made me go “ugh” with his disgusting lack of class, Fred. A player of the home nation, in their first game, with the world watching, made a completely gutless move that ended up making a mockery of what was a great match. This is the reason why American sports fans have such a hard time trying to get into the sport; embarrassments such as Fred turn casual viewers off because they make soccer players as a whole look like spoiled, weak, feeble prima donnas, trying to buy any kind of call they can by flip-flopping all over the pitch. It was a black eye on the opening match of what is sure to be a great tournament, and FIFA should hopefully be cracking down more on referees after this shameful display.