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First controversy of 2014 World Cup helps Brazil escape Croatia

The 2014 World Cup needed a big show in its opening day on June 12. After years of controversy, scandal and divisiveness, Brazil finally got to host the first game of the World Cup, and to see its own team take its first step towards a sixth championship. But of course, the Brazilians didn't get there without more controversy, as upstart Croatia was infuriated by a flop and a penalty kick that led to a 3-1 defeat.

Neymar's two goals help Brazil escape World Cup opener
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The day didn't start well for Brazil, as the very first goal of the World Cup was an own goal off of Marcelo in the 11'th minute. However, team leader Neymar showed his potential to carry Brazil to the top, getting an equalizer in the 29'th minute. Yet his next chance to score came under questionable circumstances.

Croatia hung around to stay in a 1-1 tie up to the 69'th minute, when Dejan Lovren was given a penalty for striking Brazil's Fred -- although replays clearly showed it was a flop. But regardless of Croatia's outrage and the obvious conspiracy theories, Neymar was called upon to deliver a penalty kick, which he ultimately did.

One more insurance goal from Oscar in injury time made up the final score, yet the 3-1 margin looked more secure than it actually was. In addition, referee mistakes and the predictable outcries of favoritism for the home team were not the ideal way to start the 2014 World Cup. To make matters worse, Croatian defender Vedran Corluka commented that "no one should play against Brazil" and should boycott the tournament if this is how things are going to go.

The referee who made the debated call was Yuichi Nishimura, a Japanese official who couldn't speak with the players in English, according to Corluka. Nishimura also made a red card call against Brazilian star Felipe Melo in their World Cup quarterfinal defeat to the Netherlands in 2010, so perhaps he is even in the eyes of Brazilian fans now.

Nevertheless, the tournament hasn't even survived one day without controversy, charges of referees being in the tank for Brazil, and talk of boycotts. Time will tell if things go easier on Day 2, with a tripleheader featuring Mexico vs Cameroon, 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands, and Chile vs Australia.

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