This is the first post of a series of posts about the FIFA World Cup 2014 games alternated with development issues related to the World Cup!
THE greatest party of this year kicked-off in São Paolo, Brazil yesterday. The host nation stood against Croatia in the opening game that turned out to have a bit of everything in a stadium not fully completed yet. Expectations on the Brazilian team were of course massive and one could feel the importance of this game right through the television when Thiago Silva stood in tears before marching in to the arena for the national anthems. And what a rush the national anthem was, the whole team singing like there was no tomorrow and later the whole arena exploded as the music was stopped but the singing went on. WOW!
The first half started as expected with Brazil fiercely attacking the Croatians in the opening minutes. But the Croatians were dangerous as well as they were counter attacking, playing a straightforward and fast game. And soon, that play was rewarded as the Croatian team took the lead after Marcello scoring in his own goal behind goalkeeper Julio Cesar. What a shock that was – twitter went crazy! Was the pressure to high for the Brazilians to handle? What would happen to the whole World Cup if the home team lost the opening game? Fans favoring Croatia didn’t think so much of that though – they were happy!
After the chocking start, the Brazilians were still able to keep their cool and focus continuing playing their game and creating opportunities. And sure enough, 30 minutes into the game, the brightest star introduced himself. Neymar Jr. advanced on his own and hit the ball beating the Croatian goalkeeper of the post to equalize. Happiness had no limits, the arena exploded, 1-1!! The pressure on the Croatian team was still on for the whole remainder of the first half, with Brazil creating opportunities to take the lead. But the score remained equal as the referee signaled for half-time.
I was exhausted after the first half, thrilled by what I’d seen, that the World Cup had begun, and after engaging in the social media debate. Looking forward to the continuance of the match.
In the second half, however, the game was changed! The Brazilians lost their rhythm and focus, letting the Croatians control much of what was going on. Many of the players in Brazil looked frustrated and there was quite a lot of complaining going on. Perhaps this is was a sign of the immense pressure that has been put on the team to win the whole tournament. At that point, the only exception was Oscar who played one of his best games this year in the yellow shirt. It was Oscar who delivered the pass to Fred in the penalty area leading to the highly doubtful penalty awarded to Brazil. Personally, I strongly believe that was not a penalty but the referee had made his decision. Neymar Jr. from 11 meters, 2-1 was a fact but the goalkeeper nearly had it! Neymar Jr. had scored 2 goals in the opening game, what a dream start for the young man carrying a whole nation on his shoulders!
Only minutes after the penalty the Croatians once more were unlucky with the referee decision as Julio Cesar was charged and dropped the ball creating a scoring opportunity for Croatia to equalize. But the referee had already signaled for free-kick in favor of Cesar. Questionable, I agree, but in 9 out of 10 times the referees vote in favor of the goalkeeper in situations like that, not as controversial as the penalty given earlier. 2-1 was still a fact. The Croatians kept pressing but in a counter offense Oscar was able to finish the score to 3-1 after a very strange save by Cesar leading to the opportunity to counter attack. The game was over, Brazil had stood up against the pressure in this opening game that had quality, controversy, anxiety, and happiness! The World Cup has begun!
Today – I’m looking forward to following all the games but perhaps most of all the rerun of the 2010 WC final from Johannesburg, South Africa, between reining champions Spain and last WC runner up Holland.