Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 13th 2014 Contents SAO PAULO---Yuishi Nichimura ensured that
refereeing standards at the World Cup will be a
hotly debated topic from the opening match yes-
The Japanese official awarded Brazil a questionable
penalty that Neymar converted in the 71st minute,
giving the host nation 2-1 up in what turned into
a 3-1 victory over Croatia.
For some referees, Neymar might not have been
on the field to take the spot-kick, nor even level
the match in the 29th minute.
Nichimura showed the Brazil star just a yellow
card in the 26th minute for pushing a forearm into
the throat of Croatia playmaker Luka Modric.
Four years ago, the 42-year-old professional ref-
eree sent off Brazil defender Felipe Melo in its quar-
ter-final exit against the Netherlands. (AP)
Brazil 3 (Neymar 29th, 71st pen Oscar 90)
Croatia 1 (Marcelo og 11th)
Mexico vs Cameroon, Natal, noon
Spain vs Netherlands, Salvador, 3 pm
Chile vs Australia, Cuiaba, 6 pm
Columbia vs Greece, Belo Horizonte, noon
Ivory Coast vs Japan, 6 pm Recife
Uruguay vs Costa Rica, Fortaleza, 3 pm
England vs Italy, Manaus, 6 pm
The Main Match
Spain vs Netherlands
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
World Cup record: Winners (2010), fourth
How they qualified: Spain head to Brazil as
the defending champions who, these days,
have to qualify.
They were unbeaten in their group, one
which also contained France, topping it with
six wins and two draws.
Goalscorers: Pedro was Spain's top scorer in
qualifying with just four which included a
hat-trick against Belarus - the only time the
Spanish really well went town. Manchester
City's Alvaro Negredo weighed in with a goal
in each of the last three fixtures.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
World Cup record: Runners-up three times
(1974, 1978, 2010)
How they qualified: Easy winners of UEFA
Group D, collecting 28 out of a possible 30
points and banging in goals left, right and
Goalscorers: Robin van Persie led the way
with 11 goals in qualifying, the most in all
the European qualifying groups. Their team
tally of 34 from 10 matches was only
bettered by the 36 netted by Germany.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 13, 2014
WORLD CUP GLANCE
Neymar inspires Brazil
to 3-1 win over Croatia
SAO PAULO---Neymar gave Brazil a win-
ning start to its home World Cup, scoring
twice to lead the host nation to an uncon-
vincing 3-1 victory over Croatia in the
opening game yesterday.
Brazil had a disastrous start when defender
Marcelo found his own net while trying to
clear a low cross by Ivica Olic in the 11th
minute, but Neymar then showed why the
nation's high hopes are all pinned on him.
The 22-year-old forward equalised in the
29th minute, clearing a defender in midfield
before making a run toward the edge of the
area and firing a perfectly placed low shot
that went in off the post.
The game turned on a controversial penal-
ty awarded by Japanese referee Yuichi
Nishimura in the 71st minute when striker
Fred went down inside the area under min-
imal contact from defender Dejan Lovren.
Neymar scored from the spot and the
Croatians were furious.
"If that was a penalty, we should be play-
ing basketball," said Croatia coach Niko
Kovac. "Those kinds of fouls are penalised
As Croatia searched desperately for an
equaliser, Oscar added to the lead in the
first minute of injury time with a toe poke
from just outside the penalty area.
Croatia had a few good chances toward
the end and had a goal disallowed in the
83rd after the referee ruled Olic had fouled
Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The host nation hasn't lost in the opening
match in the last nine World Cups. South
Africa was held by Mexico to a 1-1 draw
four years ago.
A draw would have been a huge disap-
pointment for Brazil, which had won its
opening match the last eight times.
The five-time champion entered the home
tournament having won 15 of its last 16
games, including five in last year's Confed-
erations Cup, the warm-up tournament it
won. The team hadn't been held to a draw
in the opener since a 1-1 result against Swe-
den in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
The result kept Croatia without a win in
its last five World Cup matches. Its last tri-
umph was a 2-1 win over Italy in 2002. The
Croats didn't play in South Africa four years
The tournament finally got underway as
planned after months of talk about the
preparation problems that plagued Brazil
since it was picked as host seven years ago.
The troubled Itaquerao Stadium, which
wasn't fully finished for the opener, held
up without major setbacks to fans or the
match itself, although part of the lights atop
the pitch went out a few times for brief
periods in the first half.
Despite the support from most of the
more than 62,100 fans in attendance, Brazil
got off to a slow start and allowed Croatia
to threaten early. It opened the scoring with
one of its first chances as Marcelo failed to
clear Olic's cross. The ball got slightly redi-
rected by striker Nikica Jelavic before the
Brazilian defender touched it backward into
The crowd stayed behind the team despite
the setback and Brazil started creating more
Midfielder Paulinho and playmaker Oscar
both came close to scoring, but it was Ney-
mar who found the net with his well-struck
low shot into the far corner.
The other Group A match will be played
between Mexico and Cameroon in Natal
Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring his side's 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, yesterday. AP PHOTO
Mexico, Cameroon seek early points
Mexico and Cameroon are the perceived
makeweights in Brazil's pool and although
not one of the marquee fixtures in the
tournament, it will be an interesting tac-
tical affair considering a defeat for either
at this early stage may well mean curtains
with Croatia and the hosts up next.
Not for the first time the build-up for
the Indomitable Lions has not gone par-
ticularly like clockwork with the players 20
hours late arriving in Brazil having threatened
not to travel following a dispute of bonus
Their football team will always be remem-
bered for their exploits at Italia 90 when
Roger Milla ran rings around defences on
the way to becoming the first African nation
to reach the last eight - where they were
ousted by England.
But those memories are starting to fade
a little. They have managed only one win
at a World Cup since and the feeling is that
this will be one of the weaker squads they
have assembled for the tournament.
Leading scorer Samuel Eto'o remains the
talisman in what will be his fourth finals
and though he enjoyed a reasonably suc-
cessful campaign with Chelsea, it does rather
highlight how little progress they have made
in terms of fast-tracking some fresh talent.
One player potentially of interest is mid-
fielder Stephane Mbia, who is worth a spec-
ulative look at 20/1 for a goal at some stage.
Once of Harry Redknapp's parish at QPR,
Mbia is highly unlikely to be back in west
London after a fantastic season with Sevilla
on loan which ended in triumph in the
He is not the most prolific in front of
goal but he is a dynamic performer who
can get into the penalty area and exploit a
Mexican midfield and backline that can be
pushed around by a more physical outfit.
It is hard to be overly-critical of Mexico
coach Miguel Herrera having not lost in six
games since taking over. But this will be his
first real test against quality opposition,
while his reliance on players from their own
domestic league could be found out,
although Santos Laguna striker and Olympic
final hero Oribe Peralta is highly regarded
and one to watch with a tremendous recent
scoring record for El Tri.
Mexico have never beaten at African team
at a World Cup finals tournament, losing
one and drawing two of their three meetings
against sides from that continent so far.
This is only the second ever meeting
between these two countries; Mexico won
the first clash 1-0 in a friendly in 1993.
Cameroon have only won one of their
last 13 World Cup games (1-0 v Saudi Arabia
in 2002), drawing four and losing eight.
decisions in spotlight
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