Hosts Brazil habe won the first match of the World Cup, following an extravagant ceremony in Sao Paulo opening the tournament.
Neymar wasted little time in living up to his billing as Brazil\’s World Cup spearhead when he scored twice to lead the host nation to a 3-1 comeback victory over Croatia in a terrific opening game of the tournament.
But the 71st-minute penalty from Neymar that tipped the Group A game Brazil\’s way seemed a soft one after Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura harshly ruled that Croatia skipper Dejan Lovren had fouled Fred who appeared to throw himself to the ground.
Neymar had brought Brazil back into the game after 29 minutes with the equaliser after defender Marcelo put through his own net after 11 minutes to give Croatia a shock lead.
Marcelo\’s misfortune meant he became the first Brazilian ever to score an own goal at the World Cup.
The cross came from Ivica Olic whose low ball from the left went through the legs of Brazil skipper Thiago Silva, clipped Nikica Jelavic\’s foot and bounced in off Marcelo with keeper Julio Cesar helpless.
Neymar created Brazil\’s first opening when he jinked along the byline, resulting in a half-cleared ball to Oscar who slammed in a curling 25 metre drive that goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa acrobatically pushed away.
But Croatia\’s reprieve only lasted seven minutes and the equaliser was greeted by scenes of unbridled joy.
Oscar started the move by beating two men in midfield before finding Neymar who advanced a few metres before cracking in a low left-foot shot that went in off the base of Pletikosa\’s left-hand post for his 32nd goal in his 50th international.
Neymar scored his 33rd when Pletikosa got both hands to his penalty but could not stop the ball from going in and Oscar wrapped up the win in the dying minutes.
Brazil kicks off World Cup 2014
The 2014 Fifa World Cup officially got under way on Thursday with a colourful opening ceremony before hosts Brazil kicked off against Croatia.
Hundreds of dancers and musicians came together for the performance at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo ahead of the tournament\’s first match.
Watched by tens of thousands of fans it included a performance by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull of the official World Cup song "We Are One".
The singers along with Brazilian star Claudia Leitte emerged from a huge dome that opened up in the centre of the pitch.
The final act saw a performance of official World Cup song "We Are One" by Jennifer Lopez and rapper Pitbull.
The month-long tournament sees 32 nations compete in 64 games.
Many fans took to the streets to sing and chant their support for Brazil as excitement built in the hours before the tournament began.
But there were also demonstrations from those unhappy with the expense of hosting the tournament.
Police in Sao Paulo had to use tear gas to break up one protest, which involved about 50 people, while striking airport workers in Rio de Janeiro blocked a road outside the airport, demanding a wage increase and a World Cup bonus.
The strike was to have lasted for 24 hours but union leaders called it off early for legal reasons.
However, there was no trouble within the 65,000-seater Arena de Sao Paulo during the opening ceremony.
Performers dressed as trees, flowers and various musical instruments all performed in three acts before the central ball opened to reveal singers Claudia Leitte, Jennifer Lopez and rapper Pitbull as they sang the official World Cup song as the finale.
The opening game of the tournament between Brazil and Croatia kicks off at 21:00 BST.
No host nation have ever lost their opening World Cup game, with the previous 20 producing 14 victories and six draws for the hosts.
Hosts Brazil start as favourites to win the World Cup for a sixth time, while holders Spain are aiming to win a fourth major tournament in a row after winning the European Championship two years ago.
The other seeded teams are Colombia, Uruguay, Switzerland, Argentina, Germany and Belgium.
Governing body Fifa said it had sold more than 2.9 million tickets, but they were still available for several matches on Wednesday, including some involving Germany, Italy and France.
Source – Reuters, British Broadcasting Corporation and agencies