Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Steven Beacom: Brazil deliver but ref suffers a real shocker

No way, ref: Yuichi Nishimura is surrounded by irked Croatia players after awarding Brazil a controversial penalty last nigh
No way, ref: Yuichi Nishimura is surrounded by irked Croatia players after awarding Brazil a controversial penalty last nigh

Pele, Garrincha, Carlos Alberto, Didi, Tostao, Gerson, Rivellino, Ronaldinho, Jairzinho, Falcao, Romario, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldo, Cafu, Kaka and a few more.

If Neymar's opening night in the 2014 World Cup finals is anything to go by, in a month's time he will be added to that illustrious list of Brazilian football icons.

Two goals in a dramatic 3-1 comeback victory for the hosts was a sensational way to start the eagerly awaited tournament for Brazil's poster boy.

Talk about making an entrance – Neymar da Silva Santos Junior... you are welcome to this party.

In the build-up there had been a world of expectation placed on the Barcelona playmaker but the famous yellow number 10 shirt did not weigh heavy on his shoulders last night as he inspired his side to an important success.

The pressure told on referee Yuichi Nishimura though.

The Japanese official made THREE big calls – all against Croatia and all in favour of Brazil.

First, much to the dismay of the Croatians, there was only a yellow card for Neymar when his swinging forearm connected with Luka Modric's face.

Seconds later the 22-year-old raced forward to strike a low left foot shot into the net, equalising an earlier own goal by Marcelo.

It got worse for Croatia after the break when Nishimura awarded one of the softest penalties in World Cup history, declaring that Southampton's wantaway defender Dejan Lovren had pulled Brazilian Fred down to the turf inside the box. He hardly touched him!

Brazil's Neymar celebrates with  Hulk after Neymar scored his sides first goal during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Brazil's Neymar celebrates with Hulk after Neymar scored his sides first goal during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Brazil fans watch the opening match in the late evening sun at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Brazil's Marcelo eyes the ball during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Brazil's Neymar, left, shoots and scores past Croatia's Dejan Lovren, left, as Brazil's Fred, center, watches during the group A World Cup soccer match in the opening game of the tournament at Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Brazil's Paulinho struggles for the ball with Croatia's Sime Vrsaljko during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Brazil's Neymar, centre, celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Pigeons are released prior to the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
Brazil's Neymar's image is displayed on a video screen as players are introduced before the group A World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Croatia, the opening game of the tournament, in the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans react to the the early own goal scored by Marcelo at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans react to the the early own goal scored by Marcelo at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans watch the opening match in the late evening sun at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Referee Yuichi Nishimura speaks with Ivica Olic (L) and Dejan Lovren of Croatia (C) after giving Lovren a yellow card and awarding a penalty kick in the second half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil takes a penalty kick against Stipe Pletikosa of Croatia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Hernanes of Brazil is challenged by Luka Modric of Croatia in the second half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil celebrates after scoring his second goal on a penalty kick in the second half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans watch the opening match in the late evening sun at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Dani Alves of Brazil battles with Ivica Olic of Croatia during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A fan reacts after Brazil concede a goal during the FIFA Fan Fest on Fortaleza beach on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans react to the the early own goal scored by Marcelo at the FIFA Fan Fest on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Fans react after Brazil concede a goal during the FIFA Fan Fest on Fortaleza beach on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Fans react after Brazil concede a goal during the FIFA Fan Fest on Fortaleza beach on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A general view during the FIFA Fan Fest on Fortaleza beach on June 12, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Fred of Brazil gestures for a foul from the ground as Dejan Lovren of Croatia looks on in the second half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A general view of the arena during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A general view of the arena during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A replica of the FIFA world cup trophy is displayed during the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, 2014 in Porto Seguro, Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil (L) celebrates scoring a goal in the first half with Fred during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Rakitic of Croatia challenges Neymar of Brazil in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Rakitic of Croatia challenges Neymar of Brazil in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil runs to the sideline to celebrate with his team after scoring in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Mateo Kovacic of Croatia challenges Neymar of Brazil in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil (R) celebrates after scoring a goal in the first half with Marcelo (L) and Hulk (C) during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Oscar of Brazil falls to the ground trying to control the ball against Mateo Kovacic (L) and Ivan Perisic of Croatia in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans cheer their team during the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, 2014 in Porto Seguro, Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans cheer their team during the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, 2014 in Porto Seguro, Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil is shown a yellow card by referee Yuichi Nishimura as Luka Modric of Croatia lies on the field during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Croatia and Brazil players form a wall on a line sprayed on the field by the referee in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans cheer their team during the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, 2014 in Porto Seguro, Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil lies on the field in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil runs to the sideline to celebrate with his team after scoring in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
PORTO SEGURO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans cheer their team during the Group A match between Brazil and Croatia on June 12, 2014 in Porto Seguro, Brazil. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Stipe Pletikosa of Croatia dives and fails to make a save on a shot by Neymar of Brazil (not pictured) in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil (2nd R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a first half goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil players, officials and Croatia players look on before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil (L) celebrates scoring a first half goal with Oscar and Dani Alves during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil (2nd R) celebrates with Dani Alves and Fred after a goal in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil dribbles past Ivan Perisic of Croatia in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar of Brazil shoots and scores against Dejan Lovren of Croatia in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Rakitic of Croatia controls the ball against Neymar of Brazil in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Perisic of Croatia celebrates a first half goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Perisic of Croatia celebrates a first half goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Neymar (R) and Fred of Brazil wait to kick off in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Oscar of Brazil fights off Sime Vrsaljko of Croatia in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Perisic of Croatia celebrates a first half goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Ivan Rakitic of Croatia challenges Paulinho of Brazil in the first half during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: Brazil fans hold a giant shirt shaped flag during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Brazil and Croatia at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It was a calculated move by the striker. Right said Fred, I'll test the referee by falling in a heap and the man in the middle failed.

Up stepped Neymar and while Stipe Pletikosa got a hand to the strike, it ended up in the net. That earned Brazil's hero his 33rd international goal in 50 appearances.

Neymar had delivered a double on the biggest night of his life as the stadium in Sao Paolo erupted. Oh the joy for all those fans already on an emotional roller coaster set to last several weeks.

There was more pain for Croatia, not overwhelmed or overawed by the occasion or opposition. They thought they had equalised late on only for Nishimura to give a foul for Ivica Olic's challenge on Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Hardly surprising that they were fuming. The phrase home town decisions sprung to mind.

When Oscar scored in injury time, the game was up.

For the good of the tournament it was the result everyone wanted, bar Croatia of course, who have a strong case to argue that it only came about due to bad refereeing.

Still, what a way to begin the 2014 World Cup.

One of the big names shining straight away, a compelling encounter, controversy and drama. It had the lot. More please.

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