World Cup Day 1: Five Thoughts

Buda Mendes

Neymar scores (twice), Oscar dazzles, and the referee steals the show.

Neymar's the star, Oscar's the substance

While it was Neymar who scored the goals, it was Brazil's #11 who played the role of catalyst. In a tactical surprise, Oscar played most of the game on the right - perhaps in an effort to expose Croatia's left-back, Vrsaljko. It was hardly a surprise he cramped up in the 94th minute after his expansive effort; pressing, tackling, dribbling and - most deservedly - scoring. Many (myself included) wondered if his poor Club finish at Chelsea would affect his form going into this tournament; thankfully for Brazil, he quickly proved the doubters wrong.

The home crowd will surely play a part

The atmosphere in Sao Paolo was electric. And even after Marcelo's early own goal, the crowd never wavered in their noise or support, eventually willing their side (with a little help from the referee) to a tournament opening victory. Having now seen its advantages firsthand, it's difficult to imagine this crowd not playing a major factor as the tournament continues.

Scolari waited too long to make changes

With players like Hernanes, Bernard, and Willian available at his disposal, Scolari shouldn't be waiting till the hour mark to make changes in a 1-1 match. Hulk was far from good, practically crying out to be substituted and Paulinho doesn't have the same offensive skill set as Hernanes. (But seriously, how long until we see Fernandinho.) Chasing the game and desperately needing a winner, Scolari should be doing more -- and sooner -- to change the proceedings.

Croatia's midfield could (should?) have done better

Modric; Rakitic; Kovacic. The midfield -ic if you will, did less than was expected of them. That type of talent concentrated in the center of the pitch should be capable of controlling the game for large periods of time, but that just didn't happen. Modric was the best of the three, but (aside from one long distance strike that forced Cesar into a smart save) didn't have enough of the moments you might expect of one of Madrid's better performers in their La Decima winning season. It's safe to say, I'll expect a more positive Croatia in the final two group matches.

Advantageous refereeing

I'm hardly one who complains about the referee, but it was a rather shocking performance from Japanese official, Yuichi Nishimura. Awarding Brazil a rather (too polite?) penalty that saw Brazil take the lead is one thing, calling Croatia for 20 fouls to Brazil's paltry 5, is another thing. He looked visibly frightened of player reaction as he constantly ran away from the players after making several of his more contentious decisions. In a match of this magnitude, it's frustrating to have to discuss officiating, but after Nishimura's performance, it seems impossible to avoid.

The first game now behind us and this World Cup already has a special feeling. Enough of me talking though, what were you thinking?

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