Day One of the World Cup 2014 began with a spectacular but short opening ceremony, telling tales of the large numbers of cultures in Brazil. The performance ended with this year's official FIFA World Cup song "We Are One (Ole Ola)", sung by Cuban-American artist Pitbull, along with Jennifer Lopez and Brazil's Claudia Leitte, and was received warmly by the fans inside the Arena Corinthians. However, the performance was panned widely by critics away from the buzz of Sao Paulo for poor sound quality,
Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo
The game was a close encounter for the best part of 60 minutes. Croatia looked determined to ruin the hosts' party as they took the ascendancy through a Marcelo own goal in the 11th minute. Brazil weren't quite at their fluent best and their defence looked pretty rocky when under pressure from the Croats' attack, led by former Everton striker Nikica Jelavic. Somewhat against the run of play Brazil made the breakthrough, who else but Neymar Jr. popping up with a scuffed shot which rolled into the goal off the inside of Pletikosa's left hand post.
So with Brazil back in the game, but Croatia still holding most of possession, the hosts had it all to do to find a lead. After a brave effort from the Croatians in defence, it was almost written in the stars that Brazil's party was not to be disturbed, and Fred fell to the floor in frankly a pathetic effort to win his side a penalty. The penalty was awarded by the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura and ignited a storm of controversy. Neymar stepped up and fired a poor shot at a nice height for Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa to save, but he could only parry it into the goal.
Croatia suffered further indignity when the ref blew for a foul on an acceptable challenge by Ivica Olic on Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar, with the ball ending up in the net for the equalizer that was disallowed. They continued to go at the Brazilians but in the mean time left their defence open, and this saw Oscar toe poke a third for the hosts that sealed the barely-deserved win.
Man of the Match: Oscar 7/10
Everton interest: Nikica Jelavic, who still holds the warm feelings of many Evertonians, had a good game against the hosts. He was energetic and unfortunately wasn't provided the service from his midfield to get himself on the scoresheet. Jela I think would be happy with his performance. Jelavic 6/10.
There weren't too many unheralded players on the pitch for Blues' to fixate on. Oscar showed his class on the day, and Chelsea fans will certainly wonder where he was towards the end of the season. Brazilian winger Bernard, currently with Shaktar Donetsk, is only 21 and has caught the eye with some sparkling performances for the Selecao and is worth tracking. 20-yr old Mateo Kovacic of Inter Milan was a joy to watch, definitely a player to also keep an eye on.