Brazil made a comeback from 1-0 down, to win 3-1 against Croatia in the opening fixture of 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Samba Boys set out on a mission to win the World Cup for a record 6th time in front of their countrymen and to expunge the bad memories of 1950 WC final against Uruguay, found themselves trailing in the 11th minute. Thanks to the brilliance of Oscar and Neymar, Brazil recovered to win the game. Brazil were awarded a controversial penalty.
Luis Felipe Scholari preferred Luis Gustavo and Paulinho at the heart of the midfield, leaving Fernandinho, Ramires and Hernanes on the bench. Croatia – the team with a crafty midfield consisting of Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic – had only one significant change in the starting XI with Sime Vrsaljko replacing injured left back Danijel Pranjiic. Dejan Lovren partnered Vedran Corluka at the centre of the defence.
Niko Kovac, manager of Croatian national team, adopted 4-2-3-1 formation and used Rakitic and Modric in deep play making roles. Brazil also started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with a switch to 4-3-3.
Brazil’s domination –
With three creative midfielders in their starting XI, a decent possession play was expected from Croatia. But it was the Brazilians who retained the possession of the ball for the most part of the match. Brazil 61% – Croatia 39% This allowed them to steady the ship slowly and win the game.
Also lack of possession prompted the Croats to commit more fouls. Croatia committed 20 fouls whereas Brazil were more disciplined – only 5 fouls.
Oscar’s influence –
Oscar played on the right flank for some part of the first half and remained on the left flank throughout the second half. He also dropped deeper to collect the ball from the back and also to fill the gaps during Paulinho’s forward runs. His creativity and versatility in the midfield region helped Brazil equalize when he took on Modric in the 29th minute and laid a simple pass to Neymar, who scored from outside the box. Oscar again popped up to receive a pass from Ramires and toe-poked the ball past Pletikosa.
He took on the opposition 11 times and was successful 7 times. The green star on the centre of the pitch is the point where he snatched the ball away from Modric and assisted Neymar. While on the left wing, all his tackles were successful. He troubled Croatian defence by regularly providing crosses.
Neymar started the game in his natural position, the left wing. But he was soon found drifting inside the central attacking midfield area. A real threat to the Croatian defenders, Neymar tried to cut in whenever possible. He was, according to me, the most active player on the pitch.
Have a look at this-
Neymar’s work rate must be appreciated. He was present everywhere to receive the passes from his teammates. A few weeks ago, there were many doubts about Neymar’s impact on the World Cup. Questions were raised about this 23-year old Brazilian – “Is he ready for the big stage?” “Can he carry his nation’s dream upon his shoulders?” “His recent form in Barcelona? And the commitment with which Neymar played yesterday is a call to everybody indicating that he is ready.
Ivica Olic –
Wing backs – Marcelo and Dani Alves – played crucial roles while attacking. Marcelo was defensively sound. Alves was caught out a few times by Ivica Olic – Olic won 50% of his tackles on Alves. He also had the upper hand in the one and only aerial battle between these two players.
Olic provided 5 crosses out of which one resulted in the goal.
Julio Cesar spilled the ball a few times. But thanks to a few brave stops and the presence of two world class defenders, Brazil did not concede the second goal.
Pletikosa had a bad day. The first goal could have been saved easily. The penalty, he was unlucky – he judged Neymar’s run correctly, but all he could do after that was just pushing the ball into his own net. Oscar’s toe-poke was not expected by the Pletikosa.
Croatia fought very well. But Brazil took control of the game as the clock ticked on. The reason for this maybe dehydration due to over sweating. Brazilians are practised to such conditions. Croatia lost most of their tackles. Maybe fatigue was the reason behind it. They were too exhausted after the 60 minute mark and the strong Brazilians easily overpowered them.
Best performance – Oscar
Most Dormant player – Fred
Stats and Charts from Four Four Two Stats Zone.