World Cup blog Day 4: It's lift-off for Brazil
It's Day 4 of JUSTIN COOK's World Cup blogs for the Gazette and Herald.
I’m on a six-hour lay over at Brasilia airport on the way to Manaus for England’s first game against Italy tomorrow night and I have the chance to update you all on yesterday – the day the World Cup began in earnest.
Hosts Brazil took on Croatia in the ill-fated Arena de Sao Paulo.
The opening ceremony was really quite gentle and fitting till J-Lo and Pitbull mimed their way through the World Cup song completely out of sync and then the World Cup started for real.
I watched the game in a local square with the Brazilian community with my good friend Danielle Leonel.
The mood had lifted somewhat from earlier in the week and although there was rioting going on in Rio & Belo Horitonze and the protestors had tried to block the road to the SP stadium, it was on.
Brazil started rather poorly and Croatia were all over them, taking the fight to their front door but then the shock of Marcelo scoring an own goal and gifting the lead to Croatia stunned the arena and the community square.
You could see the look of horror on all the beautiful faces. Brazil seemed not to be creating the chances they should have considering the talent they have in their ranks and Croatia kept sweeping down the left wing pinging balls straight into the box.
Then it happened. Neymar grabbed a goal from outside the area and then the softest penalty you have ever seen.
Neymar stepped up and fired it like a bullet off the desperate hands of the keeper and into the net.
Croatia came back strong but David Luiz and Oscar started to really come into their own and more than once Luiz saved Brazil’s bacon, defending the balls coming into the box.
At times it was like watching Chelsea with Luiz and Oscar having a six sense together.
Croatia were still not beaten but the third goal killed them off. It was personally my favourite with Oscar toe punting it past the keeper with a brilliant bit of skill. Deservedly Oscar was named man of the match.
Marcelo however was really beaten up by Croatia and I bet his shins are very sore after Croatia kept bringing him down again and again all night.
Also a few yellow cards were given in the match, most notably Neymar for deliberately giving Luka Modric a forearm smash into the face and really, being the World Cup, it should have been a straight red, in my opinion.
The home advantage played a huge part in it only being a yellow and without a doubt in my view the ref bottled it due to the occasion.
Neymar will have to be very careful going forward as he now has a yellow that carries into the next match and anymore petulance from the baby faced thumb sucker and Brazil could lose their talisman in the vital group stage.
So all in all the first game of the tournament did not disappoint and Croatia gave a good account of themselves.
During the match the sound of fireworks and bangers could be heard everywhere in the city and indeed in the square and you felt the city of São Paulo rocking. So far I have only seen two England fans eating in a bar, I guess they must be all up in Manaus getting caught out by the sun in a classic mad dogs and Englishman scenario but will confirm that when I arrive.
This was not a classic Brazil performance and Croatia caused them problems right to the end but a win is win, however scrappy.
I think that the happiest face in the arena was Dilma Rousseff the Brazil president who almost jumped into the heavens at the result.
Brazil delivered the result she really needed to justify the costs incurred both financially and socially to the country.
Sitting next to Rousseff was Sepp Blatter, surely realising this could be his last tournament of enjoying his seat in the gods.
The atmosphere in the square was awesome with young and old all jumping for joy at the win.
It struck me that Brazil really needs to win this tournament for the sake of unity within the country.
But when they come up against a decent team I think things could be different.