“Oscar has been a grafter tonight, deserved that goal.”
The 20th FIFA World Cup began with a glittering ceremony in the Brazilian City of Sau Paulo on 12 June, 2014.
While the ceremony only lasted twenty-five minutes, the organisers claimed it had taken around eighty-four hours rehearsing, before the big day.
The highlight of the ceremony were performances by pop star Jennifer Lopez and rapper Pitbull. The show was a tribute to Brazil and its treasures. The theme of the ceremony was ‘nature, people and football.’
A plethora of Brazilian World Cup heroes were in attendance, including Pelé and Ronaldo. Following the ceremony, the football samba party began with Brazil taking on Croatia.
In the first game of the tournament, Neymar and Oscar gave World Cup hosts, Brazil a 3-1 win against Croatia at the Arena de Sau Paulo.
Oribe Peralta scored a second half winner as Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0 in the second Group A fixture played at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal on 13 June, 2014.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben scored a brace each as Netherlands demolished Spain 5-1 in the first match of Group B.
Group A: Brazil 3 Croatia 1 – 9pm KO, Sau Paulo – Thursday
Brazil opened their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win against Croatia.
In this much anticipated game, Brazil let the pressure of the occasion get to them early on. Despite having early possession, they failed to capitalise as the Croatians grew increasingly dangerous on the counter-attack.
With the two Brazilian wing-backs high up the pitch, the Croatians were able to cause problems down both wings.
Croatia took the lead inside eleven minutes when Brazilian, Marcelo Vieira rolled the ball into his own net. This was Brazil’s first ever own goal in a World Cup.
Brazil were behind for seventeen minutes, before Neymar drew the home side level in the 29th minute. It was an accurate strike from Neymar as he hit a low shot that rattled off the post and into the goal.
The opening fifteen minutes of the second half saw both sides have chances. When the Brazilians did get into the area they were rewarded with a controversial penalty. Neymar duly, albeit barely tucked it away in the 71st minute.
With the two goals, Neymar has now scored thirty-three goals in fifty appearances for Brazil.
Oscar scored the third in stoppage time as Brazil claimed victory on opening night. Oscar’s performance was one of industry with flair, and arguably deserved his goal for a hard-working performance.
English Football Coach, Manisha Tailor praised the Brazilian midfielder as she tweeted: “Oscar has been a grafter tonight, deserved that goal.”
After the game, speaking to the media, a delighted Neymar said:
“I’m really very happy, I think even happier than I dreamt of… to start with a victory is very important, the whole team deserves merit because we were very calm and able to react strongly to turn the score around.”
Group A: Mexico 1 Cameroon 0 – 5pm KO, Natal – Friday
Mexico started their World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory against Cameroon in Natal. This was Mexico’s first ever victory against an African side in the World Cup.
Despite Mexico dominating the first half, it was the second game of the tournament which was marked by controversy. Mexico had two goals incorrectly disallowed for offside in the first half.
The Mexican dug out were furious with the Colombian linesman, when he wrongly flagged Giovani dos Santos for being offside on two separate occasions.
The second half followed in the same pattern with the Mexicans having the best of the chances, despite Cameroon still possessing a threat.
The Mexicans eventually got their just rewards, as a neat break-away saw a shot deflected into the path of Oribe Peralta who was left with an easy finish in the 61st minute.
Cameroon struggled to impose themselves throughout the game as Mexico’s fluidity proved too much for them. Benjamin Moukandjo had a great chance to equalise in the 90th minute, but his header was well saved by Mexican goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa.
It was a well deserved 2-0 victory for Mexico, considering that the match officials had a poor game overall.
Group B: Netherlands 5 Spain 1 – 9pm KO, Salvador – Friday
Netherlands came from behind to thrash defending champions Spain 5-1 in the Group B opening match played at the Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador. This was undoubtedly the best game of the tournament so far.
Robin van Persie scored the first for Holland from a stunning header and then got his second later in the game after hitting the crossbar. Arjen Robben showed amazing grit throughout the game and struck twice, while Stefan de Vrij scored once. The result was quite surprising in the end as Spain had initially taken the lead through a Xabi Alonso penalty.
This was a sweet revenge for the Dutch side in what was a rematch of the 2010 final.
The opening group games may have been marred by controversy, but a Brazilian victory will have helped to raise the spirits of the host nation.
Brazil will play Mexico in their next game on Tuesday 17 June, 2014, while Croatia take on Cameroon on Wednesday 18 June, 2014.
All eyes will be on the big Group D game as England face Italy at the Arena Amazonia in Manaus on Saturday 14 June, 2014.
Who will win the World Cup 2014?
- Brazil (23%)
- Germany (21%)
- Argentina (15%)
- Portugal (11%)
- Other (11%)
- Italy (6%)
- Netherlands (6%)
- Belgium (4%)
- England (2%)
- Spain (0%)
- Uruguay (0%)