World Cup 2014 opener – Brazil v Croatia: Live Report

Date:

22:16 GMT – AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT AFTER star striker Neymar scored a bitterly contested penalty among two goals as Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 in the opening game of the World Cup in Sao Paolo on Thursday.

After Real Madrid defender Marcelo scored a shock own-goal after 11 minutes, Barcelona’s Neymar equalised just before the half-hour mark before putting Brazil ahead from a highly controversial penalty in the second half when Fred fell in the area after minimal contact from centre-back Dejan Lovren.

Oscar rounded off the scoring in injury time with a brilliant solo goal.

Read on to find out how all the action unfolded at the Corinthians Arena.

22:15 GMT – ‘Bizarre decision’ – “Croatia fans in Zagreb, thousands of whom watched the match broadcast live at terraces of cafés and on a giant screen at the capital’s main square, do not hide their sadness and disappointment at the result, while many accuse the referee of making as they say “bizarre decision” at Croatia’s detriment,” AFP’s Lajla Veselica reports.

“It’s a pity, the referee ruined us!,” says bitterly Goran Vlahic, 30, as he was heading home with his girlfriend.

But he adds immediately that “there is still a chance for us” in the next two matches against Mexico and Cameroon.

21:56 GMT – Protest near Copacabana – Pictures from British channel ITV show an anti-World Cup demonstration by protesters holding banners reading ‘FIFA GO HOME’ near Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, with the channel showing images of broken glass on the TV studio window from rocks thrown by demonstrators according to presenter Adrian Chiles.

21:54 GMT – 90+5 mins – FULL-TIME – BRAZIL 3 CROATIA 1 –

21:54 GMT – 90+5 mins – FULL-TIME – BRAZIL 3 CROATIA 1 –

21:51 GMT – 90+1 mins – GOAL – BRAZIL 3 CROATIA 1 – Oscar toepokes a right-footed shot from outside the area that sneaks past Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatia goal and that should seal victory for the hosts.

21:46 GMT – 88 mins – Brazil substitution – Chelsea’s Ramires replaces two-goal hero Neymar

21:42 GMT – 83 mins – controversy – Croatia think they’ve been wronged against again as Brazil ‘keeper Julio Cesar is adjudged to have been fouled by a jumping Ivica Olic before the ball falls to a Croatia player in the area whose shot was blocked as the referee blew his whistle.

Croatia players surround the referee but he’s unmoved – replays show Julio Cesar went down very easily and Croatia boss Niko Kovac is fuming on the touchline, remonstrating with the fourth official.

21:37 GMT – 79 mins – Good block by Thiago Silva as substitute Marcelo Brozovic makes a promising run down the left flank from his own half.

21:31 GMT – 72 mins – GOAL – BRAZIL 2 CROATIA 1 – Penalty scored by Neymar, ‘keeper Stipe Pletikosa got two hands to it but couldn’t keep the ball out.

21:25 GMT – 66 mins – VANISHING SPRAY – Interesting World Cup first as the referee uses a vanishing spray to mark out the Croatia wall after awarding the free-kick against Corluka.

21:24 GMT – 66 mins – YELLOW CARD CORLUKA – Good run by Neymar who closes in on goal after skipping past Ivan Rakitic before Vedran Corluka brings him down with a crunching late challenge. The referee cautions the Croatian centre-back and awards a free-kick for Brazil 30 yards out and central but Hulk blasts it over.

21:22 GMT – 63 mins – BRAZIL SUBSTITUTION – Hernanes of Inter Milan on for Tottenham Hotspur’s Paulinho

21:19 GMT – 60 mins – CROATIA SUBSTITUTION – Marcelo Brozovic replaces Mateo Kovacic for only his second international cap

21:15 GMT – 55 mins – Croatia enjoying a decent spell of possession as the ball is worked out to Ivica Olic on the left who whips in a cross which Brazil centre-back David Luiz does well to cut out.

21:10 GMT – 49 mins – Brazil start the half on the front foot – Hulk makes a nice turn on the righthand side of the Croatia area and crosses to Fred but the ball just evades the burly striker.

21:05 GMT – SECOND HALF UNDER WAY –

21:05 GMT – SECOND HALF UNDER WAY –

20:49 GMT – 45 mins+2 – HALF-TIME – BRAZIL 1 CROATIA 1 –

20:43 GMT – Wild scenes – “Wild scenes based as much on relief as joy greeted Neymar’s equaliser in the fan park in Porto Alegre,” reports AFP’s Kieran Canning from the southern Brazilian city.

“Earlier, after a passionate rendition of the national anthem, the 7,000 present had fallen silent when Marcelo put Croatia in front.”

20:42 GMT – 40 mins – Neymar gathers the ball and shows his poise as he skips past Ivan Rakitic 25 yards out, forcing the Croatian player to bring him down. Neymar steps up to take the resulting free-kick but it hits the wall.

20:40 GMT – Firecrackers – “A number of firecrackers are immediately fired in Manaus after Neymar’s equaliser, the hitherto silent Amazonian metropolis which had resembled a ghost town after Marcelo’s own-goal,” writes AFP’s sports reporter Colin Droniou.

20:38 GMT – Copacabana caxirolas – “A chorus of bead-filled caxirola instruments greet Brazil’s equaliser on Copacabana beach as the final vodka bottle is cracked open at the bar,” reports AFP’s Christopher Wright from Rio de Janeiro.

20:38 GMT – Copacabana caxirolas – “A chorus of bead-filled caxirola instruments greet Brazil’s equaliser on Copacabana beach as the final vodka bottle is cracked open at the bar,” reports AFP’s Christopher Wright from Rio de Janeiro.

20:35 GMT – ‘Horror and disbelief’ – “Custodians at a buffet restaurant inside Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao International Airport reacted with a mixture of horror and disbelief when Marcelo’s own goal put Croatia ahead,” writes AFP sports correspondent Tom Williams.

“Unsuccessful Brazilian incursions at the other end of the pitch prompted anguished shrieks and howls from the 120 or so customers, many of whom were wearing yellow shirts in support of the ‘Selecao’, before Neymar’s equaliser drew them roaring and cheering to their feet.”

20:30 GMT – GOAL 29 MINS – BRAZIL 1 CROATIA 1 – Neymar equalises for Brazil with a left-footed strike from the edge of the area that sneaks in via the post!

The Barcelona striker is fortunate to still be on the pitch after that clash with Modric but shows his class with an inch-perfect strike from 25 yards and the Corinthians Arena erupts.

20:25 GMT – 23 mins – Another chance for Brazil – the hosts are upping the pressure here as Neymar dances past a challenge on the dead-ball line before crossing a dangerous low ball. Croatia clear but only as far as Oscar who fires in a controlled curling effort but Stipe Pletikosa pulls off a flying save.

Replays show the ball was out before Neymar crossed it so controversy averted.

20:23 GMT – 21 mins – Brazil chance – midfielder Paulinho breaks into the 18-yard box on the righthand side and fires in a shot but straight at Croatia’s ‘keeper Stipe Pletikosa.

20:20 GMT – 150/1, 200/1 – Worth pointing out that Croatia were between 150/1 and 200/1 shots to win the World Cup with most major bookmakers before kick-off, behind near neighbours Bosnia-Herzegovina.

20:17 GMT – 15 mins – Brazil chance – immediate chance at the other end as Oscar crosses a delicious ball in from the right but it evades striker Fred and an acrobatic leap by Neymar at the back stick.

20:13 GMT – GOAL 11 MINS – BRAZIL 0 CROATIA 1 – Croatia’s Ivica Olic crosses from the left, Nikica Jelavic gets a touch but it bounces off the unfortunate Brazilian left-back Marcelo and over the line! Calamity for the hosts.

20:09 GMT – 7 mins – First chance for Croatia as Ivica Olic gets onto a cross from the right but sends his header narrowly wide of Julio Cesar’s righthand post — nervous gasps in the stands at that early sign of Croatian attacking threat.

20:09 GMT – 7 mins – First chance for Croatia as Ivica Olic gets onto a cross from the right but sends his header narrowly wide of Julio Cesar’s righthand post — nervous gasps in the stands at that early sign of Croatian attacking threat.

20:07 GMT – 5 mins – Brazil free-kick swung in from the left flank by Real Madrid’s Marcelo finds Paris Saint-Germain defender Thiago Silva – he nods it back across goal to David Luiz but the big centre-back’s header poses Stipe Pletikosa no problems in the Croatian goal.

20:02 GMT – 2 mins – Brazil right-back Dani Alves breaks down the right before curling in an early cross – ripples of excited cheers spread around the stands at the first sign of endeavour from the hosts.

20:02 GMT – BRAZIL AND CROATIA KICK OFF 2014 WORLD CUP –

20:01 GMT – Eery quiet in Rio – “Rio’s central business district is eerily quiet as the match gets under way,” writes AFP’s Joshua Berger.

“The sidewalks, usually teeming on a weekday, are empty. Restaurants, shops and businesses have pulled their metal shutters and closed up shop. The only vehicles on the street are buses — still running, but empty except for one or two passengers.”

20:00 GMT – White doves – Three children carry three white doves into the centre circle before releasing them to loud cheers – part of FIFA’s commitment to promoting world peace, apparently.

19:55 GMT – Brazilian anthem – The Brazilian national anthem echoes around the stands of the Corinthians Arena as a sea of fans decked out in yellow and blue bellow out one verse and then a second.

19:54 GMT – Players take to the pitch – Cheers from fans ring around the stadium as the players take to the pitch in the yellow and blue and red and white chequered strips of Brazil and Croatia.

Players from both sides were embracing in the tunnel before coming on in a display of sportsmanship.

The Brazilian players walk in line with a hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them.

19:50 GMT – Streets deserted – “A normally busy thoroughfare in eastern Sao Paulo has very little traffic as game time approaches,” reports AFP’s Laurent Thomet.

“Brazilians desert the streets when the selecao plays in the World Cup.”

19:49 GMT – Zagreb rain eases – “After a thunderstorm hit Croatia’s capital Zagreb, the rain has gradually stopped and fans are returning to the city’s main square to watch the match on a giant screen,” AFP’s Lajla Veselica reports.

“Several thousand mostly young supporters gathered in front of a stage put at the Josip Jelacic square as commercials with Croatian players and footage of squad best matches are broadcast on the screen.

“Virtually everyone is dressed in Croatia’s red and white colours, they wave Croatian flags and sing popular songs played loudly.”

19:43 GMT – Teams – Tonight’s teams have been confirmed:

Brazil

Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar, Fred

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari (BRA)

Croatia

Stipe Pletikosa, Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Dejan Lovren, Sime Vrsaljko, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, Ivica Olic, Nikica Jelavic

Coach: Niko Kovac (CRO)

Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (JPN)

19:38 GMT – ‘Good feeling’ – Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, who will miss the match after being red-carded in a playoff game, says he has a “good feeling” about the outcome.

“We can achieve a good result. I have a good feeling before the match and I’m ready to support my team-mates,” Manduzkic tells state HRT television in Croatia.

19:37 GMT – Yellow and blue everywhere – The stadium is virtually full, 95 percent yellow and blue, AFP’s Adrian Dennis tells us.

Each Brazilian player is getting their own individual standing ovation from the crowd.

19:33 GMT – Warming up – Fans shout out with joy as Brazil’s players take to the pitch for the warm-up.

The Brazilian players are teaming up in pairs — Dani Alves with Neymar, both of Barcelona, Thiago Silva with David Luiz, who is to join him at PSG, plus Hulk and Fred.

Hulk draws particular appreciation from the crowd for his backheels, AFP’s Philippe Grelard tells us.

19:24 GMT – Pressure on favourites Brazil – Brazil are the bookmakers’ favourites to lift the World Cup in the final on July 13 and have won 15 of their last 16 games going into the tournament.

But as if the pressure of expectation on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side wasn’t great enough going into their first game, no host nation has ever lost the opening game of a World Cup.

19:17 GMT – Hurrying home – Many Brazilians have rushed home to make it back in time for the game.

“The main streets of the capital, Brasilia, one of the host cities, are virtually empty ahead of the game. Businesses, schools and government offices are closed. Traditional bars with terraces are packed with people waiting to see the match,” AFP’s Yana Marull writes.

19:15 GMT – Game ahead – Now that the excitement of the opening ceremony is dying down, let’s turn our attention to the first game of the tournament — hosts Brazil versus Croatia, which kicks off at 2000 GMT.

AFP’s Alexandre Grosbois tells us that the players are already out starting their early warm-ups.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Wednesday issued a rallying call to the expectant nation.

“To all Brazilians, I want to tell you the time has arrived. This is our World Cup,” said Scolari, who was at the helm the last time the five-time champions won the tournament in 2002.

“The first step is tomorrow against Croatia. After that we have six steps that we want to go up if we want to win the World Cup.”

18:44 GMT – Rain in Zagreb – AFP’s Lajla Vesilica in Croatia’s capital Zagreb tells us that fans there waiting to watch the match have had their plans disrupted by rain.

“As rain pours on Zagreb threatening the spoil plans of thousands of fans to watch the match at cafes terraces or on a giant screen at the main square, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic tells reporters he will the match at home and predicts a comfortable 3-0 win for his country,” she says.

18:42 GMT – ‘Practically a Brazilian’ – AFP journalist Javier Tovar in Sao Paolo is clearly impressed by J-Lo’s samba skills.

“How well J-Lo dances samba! Practically a Brazilian,” he writes.

18:40 GMT – Protests on Machado Avenue – “The throngs who had lined Machado Avenue to see the Brazil team bus left in disappointment after hearing that the team would take a different route,” writes AFP’s Laurent Thomet in Sao Paolo.

“An hour earlier riot police had chased a small group of protestors on the same avenue, firing teargas in the middle of incoming traffic.

“It’s too bad for us fans. We heard it was because of clashes here earlier. It’s too bad to have protests now,” said financial analyst Pedro Augusto de Jesus, 28, wearing a yellow Brazil shirt as he left disappointed.

18:37 GMT – Brazilian flag – “Massive cheers from the home fans as the Brazilian flag is brought into the arena,” writes AFP’s John Weaver.

“Anticipation is building but still hundreds of empty seats even though we’re well under way now with the opening ceremony.”

18:35 GMT – 32 nations – “Flags of the 32 nations taking part in the tournament appear on the giant ball in the stadium,” writes AFP’s Rio de Janeiro-based journalist Louis Genot.

18:33 GMT – Giant ball – The football section of the ceremony starts now as the globe in the middle transforms into a giant ball.

Local children are taking the spotlight showing off their skills with balls on strings. They are accompanied by actors dressed in black and white costumes to make them resemble traditional balls – though not the official Brazuca match ball.

18:28 GMT – Team bus – Outside the stadium, throngs of people wearing Brazil shirts, yellow and green wigs and waving flags are now lining the avenue in Sao Paolo where the Brazil team bus will pass soon, AFP’s Laurent Thomet tells us.

Silvio Gualberto, a 53-year-old shoe marketing representative waited to see the bus on a mound along the avenue.

“We have high hopes that Brazil will win the cup,” he said as his 12-year old son stood next to him with the national flag around his neck.

But like other supporters, he was concerned that protestors could take to the streets if the team is eliminated early on.

“We have faith that they will win. If they don’t win the World Cup we are going to have problems here. If they get eliminated, we’re fried.”

18:28 GMT – Samba sounds – The next section of the ceremony celebrates the diversity of Brazil’s people. Samba sounds and folk music ring around the stadium as dancers in brightly-coloured costumes dance in formation.

18:27 GMT – Capoeira – Now the dancers are giving a demonstration of capoeira, the Brazilian martial art which combines dance, acrobatics and music.

Some of the players in Brazil for the World Cup have tried this out already, including England, with Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge pictured doing handstands as they attempted it this week.

18:27 GMT – Giant globe – The giant globe at the centre of the pitch-turned-stage changes colour as a canoe being ‘paddled’ by an actor dressed as an Amazon dweller is carried on by actors.

18:24 GMT – Turning yellow – “The stands are turning yellow as Brazilian fans stream into the brand-new Corinthians Arena, with the opening ceremony under way,” writes AFP’s John Weaver. “This stadium has never been tested with a capacity crowd,” he adds.

There is a temporary stand in place holding 20,000 fans for this game, upping the permanent capacity from around 41,000.

18:20 GMT – Amazon – As the cereomony begins, performers are representing one of Brazil’s best-known natural wonders, the Amazon rainforest.

Dancers are dressed as trees and vegetation as others dressed as exotic flowers mingle around them.

18:16 GMT – OPENING CEREMONY BEGINS AT CORINTHIANS ARENA –

18:16 GMT – OPENING CEREMONY BEGINS AT CORINTHIANS ARENA –

18:14 GMT – Taking their positions – Everyone is taking their positions for the opening ceremony, AFP’s Javier Tovar tells us from the Corinthians Arena, ahead of the ceremony which is scheduled to start at 3:15 pm local time (1815 GMT).

“The stands are filling slowly, the atmosphere is festive,” he adds.

18:07 GMT – Wigs and hats – AFP’s Natalia Ramos tells us that near the Corinthians Arena there is a deafening noise of horns and vuvuzelas and many people are wearing off-the-wall outfits such as wigs and hats and waving giant flags.

18:01 GMT – Young people, old people – AFP’s Natalia Ramos has been talking to fans and vendors at the Luz station in central Sao Paolo, from where trains run to the stadium.

Young people, old people, families – they are all here, including a small group of Croatians what is perhaps the first sighting of a vuvuzuela at the tournament.

Gutemberg Santos, 42, is selling hats, T-shirts and flags nearby.

“It’s been a good sales day. Many people are coming through here to the stadium. Everybody looks very excited, happy!”

17:57 GMT – Enthusiasm in Teresopolis – There may be scepticism and unrest in much of Brazil, but in the sleepy town of Teresopolis, in the mountains 100 kilometres north of Rio de Janeiro, there is plenty of enthusiasm for the World Cup, writes AFP sports reporter Andy Scott.

Teresopolis is proud to be the ‘Casa da Selecao’, the home of the Brazilian national team’s training headquarters, and everywhere you look there are signs of their affection.

Adao Perreira Soares, 84, proudly shows off his vintage car as he struggles to recall great Brazil players of the past. “For me the greatest of all time was Garrincha. He had bendy legs but he was a great player.”

Of the current team he says: “Brazil are playing well but we have to go game by game. Football is all about luck. I hope they win the Cup.”

17:55 GMT – Journalists ready – AFP’s Pedro Ugarte tells us that journalists are readying themselves to cover the opening event of the year’s biggest sporting event.

“The press tribune at the Arena Sao Paulo is already packed with photographers, reporters and cameramen testing their equipment to be sure all is working well before the inauguration ceremony.”

17:50 GMT – Corinthians Arena – Hundreds of people, many of them wearing Brazil shirts, are arriving at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paolo, AFP’s Rosa Sulleiro tells us.

“It’s the first time we come to the stadium. It’s very cute, but very messy. It has taken two hours from the metro and we have not yet found the seats. We are very happy to be here, especially the children,” says Pedro Bartelle, an entrepreneur aged 38, who came with his wife and two young children.

“This is a mess, we did not find anything!” adds another fan, Ana.

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