I watched most of the opening game of the World Cup yesterday. Unfortunately, I turned it on a minute or two after Croatia stunned the hosts with an opening goal (yes, an own-goal, technically),
but watched the Brazilian methodical attack work its way down the field time after time.
And that's pretty much what was going on for the rest of the first half. Croatia was almost entirely defensive in its posture, and wasn't passing crisply enough to mount a real attack in return.
Neymar did manage a goal on a combination of not-good defense (they gave him (Neymar!) too much space) and a well-placed shot (it went off the inside of the post, after the goalie missed it by an inch or two) to equalize ten or fifteen minutes later.
But beyond that, Brazil really didn't have much in the way of chances, either. They had close to 70% of the possession (I do wonder how that's calculated; touches, completed passes, time?), but that was all they had to show for it.
So the second half began with the game still tied, though it looked like it'd be a stretch for Croatia to maintain that.
They did for a while, and even mounted a couple attacks of their own, but then things took a turn for the worse. The Lusos mounted a quick counterattack, that looked fairly innocuous, but it ended with Fred taking a dive in the box and drawing a yellow card and penalty kick. Neymar played some games in the run-up, and shot it high and to the side. The goalie guessed correctly and got his hands on it, but it slipped through for a goal.
To make matters worse, five (or so) minutes later, the Croats put a ball into the Brazilian box, and a foul was called when the goalie backed into Olic (I think), who was heading it back into the middle. By the time play stopped, the ball was in the Brazilian's net, but the (really terrible) foul call stood.
The Croats tried gamely, and put a bit of pressure on Brazil, but the Lusos were the ones who managed another goal in the waning minutes. Oscar's run down the left side of center led to a shot that again found the inside edge of the net, just past the goalie. Not sure what happened; the goalie seemed to react a bit slowly to the shot being taken.
And that was the end of the scoring.
There was never any doubt that the Brazilians were the better team in the game, but I'm not at all sure they deserved to win. For sure, they got two huge, and undeserved, helpings from the ref, and that should dominate the game discussion. It certainly should not have been a 3-1 final score.
And it doesn't get the competition off on the right foot, as it ends up looking like FIFA, through the refs, has a vested interest in Brazil moving forward. You don't want people to start off talking about conspiracy theories and gambling fixes. I don't think that's what was going on, but those were game-changing mistakes, both going in the same direction. It doesn't look good. I haven't looked yet, to see in what damage control FIFA has engaged, but I hope they've had something to say about it.
Update: It appears I might have been too generous in my interpretation.
Also, I forgot to mention the gratuitous use of the goal-line cameras on an unambiguous goal. I think even the announcers were annoyed at that.
And I forgot to mention how entertaining Scolari was on sideline calls. He was going ballistic over obviously-correct calls. Gotta think the refs would hate having to hear that.