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Neymar, controversial call, help Brazil escape 3-1 in World Cup debut

Brazil and Croatia battled evenly early on in their Group A opening mat h
Brazil and Croatia battled evenly early on in their Group A opening mat h
Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Early lighting issues at the just completed Arena Corinthians stadium foreshadowed a half-lit start for Brazil in their home debut in the 2014 FIFA World Cup today, Thursday, June 12, that culminated in a Marcello own-goal that put the home team down 0-1 early to Croatia.

Not to be intimated by the roaring home crowd or prognosticators predicting an easy ride for Brazil into the knockout rounds, Croatia opened with an attacking style of offense that seemed to stun the Brazilians in the early minutes of the match.

And with Croatia getting plenty of scoring chances early on, they finally lucked out in the eleventh minute after a crossing pass ricocheted of Brazilian defender's Marcello's left foot and into Brazil's goal.

After the Croatian stunner, Brazil started to settle into an offensive rhythm, but their continued loose defending allowed Croatia to counter with ease.

And after 25 minutes of play, it appeared that an upset was in the works.

But it was Brazil's Neymar in the 29th minute that came to the rescue of his team and evened the score 1-1 with a shot from just outside the box that barely rolled past the outstretched hands of Croatia's goalie, Stipe Pletikosa.

The two teams battled evenly after the Neymar goal until halftime, with no team appearing to have a decisive advantage over the other.

In the second half, however, Croatia didn't open up with the aggressive magic they had in the beginning of the game and seemed content on playing for a draw; which would have been a well-earned point for the underdogs.

But the plan of slowing the game down and locking Brazil down on defense came to a sudden halt after a highly controversial penalty was called on Croatia while Brazil was in the box; allowing Brazil a free shot on goal.

And, once again, it was Neymar who came through for Brazil, striking the ball into the back of the net and putting Brazil up 2-1.

Croatia could not recover after the penalty kick, as Brazil dominated possession from that point on and a late goal by Brazil made the final score a much more lopsided-appearing 3-1.

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