From Sao Paulo: Croats cry foul as controversial Neymar steers Brazil home

Zee Media Bureau/Shobhan Saxena from Sao Paulo

With much suffering and some contribution from referee Yuichi Nishimura, the Brazilian team beat Croatia 3-1 in the opening game of the World Cup at the Itaquerão stadium here on Thursday. Neymar scored the first two goals, while Oscar slotted in the third. The first goal was a low shot from about 22 yards. The second one came in a penalty kick given by match-referee Nishimura who had denied Brazil a penalty in the quarter final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The star of the day was Neymar. The 22-year-old striker took 25 minutes to score his first goal in a World Cup. And the first goal came under extreme pressure, with Brazil a goal down and not showing enough penetration. The striker received the ball outside the area and sent it to the corner of the net. The ball hit the crossbar before reaching the twine.

"It was more than I dreamed," said Neymar after the victory. He was named best player on the field in poll organized by FIFA. Still, the big star avoided comparisons with big stars like Messi.

"There`s nothing like that. I do not want that kind of comparison. He is an idol and a great player. I am happy to score these goals. "

After the game, Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari admitted that he consulted the team captains and talked about the pressure Neymar feels for being the main player of the team. "I spoke to the four captains (Thiago Silva, Fred, David Luiz and Julius Caesar), and they said the only thing they want him to be happy playing the ball,”said the coach.

The coach was full of praise for Oscar as well. Speaking to reporters after the game, Scolari denied that he had thought about leaving Oscar out. "There was no such discussion. Our analysis shows that Oscar stole more balls and made the right moves. He was spectacular, "said the coach.

"Oscar is a boy that any parent would like to have as a son. He is very good. He doesn’t talk much. Before the game I told him that he owed a goal and he has already paid the debt,” the coach said.

Croatian players left the Itaquerão disgusted with the refereeing in the opening of the World Cup. Angry with Japanese referee Yushi Nishimura for allowing a penalty to Brazil in their 3-1 victory, the Europeans spared no adjectives in criticising Nishimura.

"Did you not see the game? Two billion people saw that it was not a penalty. How can you ask whether or not it was?" Said Dejan Lovren, the Croat player who committed the foul against Fred. “We talked about respect here. I have not seen it. We had several meetings on refereeing before the World Cup. Shame on the people who make decisions like that," added the defender.

"There were many big mistakes. Neymar should have been given a red card, the penalty should not have been given and the referee should not have disallowed a goal we scored. We stayed seven days listening to everyone talk about fair play. This is not fair play,” said Dario Srna, team captain.

After the game, even as whole of Brazil was shouting “Neymar, Neymar”, the former Argentinian player Diego Maradona appeared on a television show, saying the Brazilian side had too many defects and they are too dependent on Neymar.

"Today, Brazil played well but had many problems on the sides. They are very dependent on Neymar. It`s not an unbeatable team," Maradona said in a program on Tele Sur. Maradona also gave his opinion on the controversy of the day: the penalty for Fred. The number 9 shirt of Brazil, said Maradona, was really touched by the Croatian defender, but he exaggerated the fall. "For me, he was touched. But he exaggerated the fall," said the Argentinian.

Brazil will now play their next game against Mexico on next Tuesday (June 17) in Fortaleza.

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