Despite the 3-1 score it was a far from convincing affair in a match where Croatia gave as good as they got, and there were a number of controversial moments that turned the game in the hosts’ favour. On a different day, Neymar could have been sent off before he scored Brazil’s equalising goal, the dubious penalty that gave them the lead may not have been given, a legal-looking goal by Croatia that would have drawn them level might have been allowed – but football simply doesn’t work that way. At the end of the day, Scolari’s men have a win and three points to their name, and can look forward to similar tests from the likes of Cameroon and Mexico.
But what does the future hold for the team in yellow going forward? Burdened with the heavy weight of a fervent nation on their shoulders amid a difficult run up to the tournament both politically and logistically, it is perhaps understandable that they started the tournament nervously.
Julio Cesar in goal looked rusty and panicked at times and the team in general struggled to find any rhythm or fluidity in their play but there were definite plus points – Oscar was excellent throughout and could be a major influence on the team going forward, and two goals from Neymar have people talking about a possible golden boot winner already with just a few games gone.
Perhaps the main plus point though would be the fact that they managed to find a way to win after falling behind in the game and while playing nowhere near to their full potential. Winning ugly is always a good sign if you want to progress forward and Brazil will surely get better; lest we forget the current World Champions, Spain, lost their opening game of the campaign in the last tournament but still ended up their collective hands on the trophy, and the less said about Friday’s capitulation against Holland the better.
But can Brazil win the tournament? At this very early stage in proceedings the jury may be out at present. In a World Cup where no one team (with perhaps the exception of Argentina) can really claim to be outstanding favourites, they certainly have a chance, even with a squad that many would view as not being of the absolute best vintage when compared to some of the great Brazil teams of the past.
With Mexico winning against Cameroon in their opening fixture it looks like they will be the main threat to Neymar and his teammates in the group stage. If they negotiate their way through the group stage as expected they are likely to face one of Holland, Spain or Chile in the last sixteen – none of which will be an easy task. But to win the World Cup you have to face the best, and Brazil is up there among them. Time will tell if this young side can manage the expectations of a nation and lift the trophy, but their journey has begun on a positive note. Next up, it’s those Mexicans on Tuesday.
Image credit: Getty