Neymar converts from the spot. *AFP photo
Neymar converts from the spot. *AFP photo
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Brazil 3

Neymar 29, 71 (pen), Oscar 90 

Croatia 1

Marcelo (og) 11

Brazil got the win they needed on the opening night of the World Cup in Sao Paulo but not without controversy.

With the game poised at 1-1 and the home side looking increasingly frustrated, Dejan Lovren was adjudged to have brought down striker Fred, who flung himself to the ground.

Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded a penalty and A Seleção never looked back after Neymar converted the spot-kick, albeit fortuitously after keeper Stipe Pletikosa had got both hands to the ball.

It was 22-year-old Neymar’s second of the night after he had  cancelled out Marcelo’s 11th-minute own goal.

The Barcelona striker now has 33 goals in 50 games for his country and has set himself up to be the hero of this World Cup.

The impressive Oscar, a source of creativity for the Brazilians, scored the third in injury time.

While the home fans in the stadium celebrated their perfect start, Croatia were left furious at what they perceived to be a blatantly biased penalty decision. Manager Niko Kovac refused to mince his words after the game and his anger was obvious.

He said: “If that’s how we start the World Cup, we’d better give it up now and go home.

“We talk about respect, that wasn’t respect, Croatia didn’t get any.

“If that’s a penalty, we don’t need to play football anymore. Let’s play basketball instead, it’s a shame.

“If you continue like this you will have 100 penalties. I think 2.5 billion people watching on TV saw this was not a penalty.

“This was ridiculous and if we continue in this way, we will have a circus.”

It’s fair to say Neymar won’t lose any sleep over the decision, as he proved he can cope with the pressure of an expectant nation.

He said: “It was better than I thought.

“I was hoping that we’d win, but to be able to debut in a World Cup with a brace is an unmeasurable joy.”

He added: “If you notice the goals, they were all a bit strange. I really did mean to put the ball between the defender’s legs [for the first] but not for the shot to be as weak as it was but the important thing is that it was a goal. How do I keep my cool for the penalty? It’s a lot of practice, to hit the ball really strong. Their keeper gave me a little scare there but the ball went in, thankfully.”

He added: “Receiving a yellow card on your first match is hard. My elbow hit Modric and I wanted to apologize because I didn’t notice he was there.”