Friday, 13 June 2014

Brazil WC 2014 - Brazil vs Croatia Report plus LIVE COVERAGE:

Opener: The hosts, Brazil were ready for action in Group A. Their first opponents were Croatia.
Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post - where I have a match report, review and analysis from the opening game of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as well as LIVE Coverage from the matches unfolding on Friday night.

4 years of waiting, finally here. The 2014 World Cup began on a late night in Brazil, and after the pre-match opening ceremony and traditional welcome, the first match of many was officially underway. 

The host nation Brazil were up against fellow group stage side Croatia, in a stunning atmosphere with the stage built and the hype truly real, both sides were desperate to get off to a good start.

Brazil were the outright favourites to win the whole tournament before the start, in-front of their home fans. However, this would be an interesting first test to see whether or not they were ready to prove to the world why they deserve to win the glory for their country this year, or whether the hype was not justified. 

Here were the team line-ups going into the match (players in yellow represent cards awarded): 

Brazil: Cesar, Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Gustavo, Hulk, Oscar, Neymar, Fred. 

Subs: Jefferson, Fernandinho, Dante, Maxwell, Henrique, Ramires, Hernandez, Willian, Bernard, Jo, Maicon and Victor.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljiko, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Kovacic, Olic and Jelavic.

Subs: Zelenika, Pranjic, Vukojevic, Schildenfeld, Brozovic, Rebic, Sammir, Vida, Eduardo and Subasic.


A relatively mild first few minutes of the game from both sides, as Brazil were eager to give the home support something to cheer about in the opening exchanges.

A tense affair, the South American side started the game off brightly and despite young Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic having an effort just wide within 2 minutes of the game, Hulk won himself a free-kick in a dangerous position after 5 minutes.

Croatia were solid at the back and despite not being able to hold off the leap of newly-announced PSG defender David Luiz towards goal, goalkeeper Pletikosa dealt with the danger.

A half-chance for Croatia came in the 7th minute, but striker Ivica Olic failed to connect with an attempted header from an inswinging cross into the box, which Brazil struggled to clear away. The Wolfsburg man’s effort was wide of Cesar’s goal, and the QPR keeper was not troubled in the end.   

And then disaster struck. For the hosts anyway. A low cross into the box was poorly dealt with by the Brazil defence, and after a scruffy contact on the ball by Hull striker Jelavic was forced goalwards, the ball bounced off Real Madrid full-back Marcelo into the back of his OWN net.

Disaster after 10 minutes: Jelavic's effort took a deflection off Marcelo into the net!
Brazil were 1-0 down after just 11 minutes, in-front of their home crowd on the opening night.
An own goal to give Croatia the lead, the opening goal of the tournament just happens to be an own goal. 

Now it was time to see whether Brazil would react in a positive or negative way to going a goal down. Another good opportunity for the Brazilians flashed past their eyes, a good cross into the box by Oscar flew into the area for Fred and Neymar, who were both running towards the ball but both attackers failed to connect with the delivery and Croatia had brief respite.

Both sides looked dangerous on the counter attack, but it was Brazil who had most of the possession and clear-cut chances in the first 20 minutes of play, with no goals to show for their hard work.

The Croatian goalkeeper Pletikosa was under pressure every time Brazil pushed forward, they looked as though they could score when on the counter attack. Good work on the flank by Barcelona forward Neymar to sprint past Rakitic and cross the ball into the box, the danger was partially cleared but drifted towards Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who hit a well-struck shot from outside the box which was parried away by Pletikosa, before Hulk had an effort fly over the bar as the hosts kept up their constant pressure on the Croatian defence.  

Neymar was shown the first yellow card of the night in the 27th minute after what appeared to be a deliberate elbow in the face of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric which jostling for the ball in the air. The Croatian players were unhappy about the challenge and protested that Neymar be sent off, but the referee brandished a yellow and a free-kick was awarded.

Naughty: Neymar was booked (below) after this deliberate elbow on club rival Luka Modric.
 Despite protesting his innocence, Neymar was consequently booked after the challenge
Jelavic had a header caught comfortably by Cesar, before Brazil went on the counter attack with Neymar weaving his way past two defenders and finding space to shoot. The resulting shot was low and hard, beating the goalkeeper to his bottom left, into the net. 

Neymar equalised for Brazil in the 29th minute after a spell of constant pressure from the hosts, which was deserved despite the scruffy contact on the ball. 

Swerving strike: Neymar equalised for Brazil after 29 minutes, going on the counter attack
Young rising star: Neymar wheels away to celebrate his finish.
A last-gasp sliding challenge by Modric inside the box showed the intense levels of pressure that Brazil were putting on their opponents, constantly looking to go forward with the ball and beating their markers with pace on the counter, allowing for an open, end-to-end match. Croatia looked comfortable and confident on the ball with composure in tight spaces, but rarely had possession in the first-half. 

The possession stats told the whole story, Brazil having 70% possession in the first 40 minutes, compared to a mere 30% for Croatia. However, Croatia did well to shut Brazil out for the most part and did not succumb to the overwhelming Brazilian atmosphere in the early going, which meant for an entertaining match.

FACT: The use of the vanishing spray was brought into play in the 41st minute for a Brazil free-kick just outside of the box, which came to nothing.

The use of the vanishing spray for the first time was present for a free-kick
There were 2 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the first-half of action in the opening game, with both teams content to go into the break with a 1-1 scoreline, probably more so Croatia who proved that you can have all the chances in the world but if you do not take them, you will not score! 

The second-half was underway with no substitutions for either side. Brazil started the second period the way that they finished the first - enjoying long spells of possession and pushing forward when they saw spaces in the defence, before being pushed off the ball and having to start the attack again. 

Croatia had a half-chance in the 55th minute with Wolfsburg winger Perisic having an ambitious effort outside the box fly over the bar after a good passing move with Modric towards the Brazil area. 

The first substitution of the World Cup came from Croatia in the 60th minute: Mateo Kovacic being replaced by Marcelo Brozovic. Brazil made a sub of their own 3 minutes later, with Hernanes replacing Paulinho in the centre of midfield.

Poor decision-making almost led to a potential Brazil chance in the 64th minute - A tactical foul by former Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka towards the box was adjudged to be a yellow card from the referee after he slid in late on the approaching Neymar who was running at pace towards goal. A free-kick from 30 yards out, with Hulk and Alves both standing over the set-piece.

Alves took the resulting free-kick, but his stinging effort towards goal went just over the bar, not enough dip on the shot to trouble the goalkeeper. 

Brazil made their second substitution of the match with Bernard replacing the ineffective Hulk, before a controversial penalty was awarded to the hosts after Fred went down under the challenge of Southampton defender Dejan Lovren in the area. The referee ran to the spot and pointed for a penalty, and despite the protests of the Croatian players the penalty was given. 
Anger and frustration: The Croatian players run towards the referee after he points to the spot
Replays showed that Fred had slipped and went down too easily, but there was clear contact by Lovren who was given a yellow card for his troubles after protesting his innocence. Neymar took the resulting penalty, and despite the goalkeeper getting a touch on the ball, the young Brazilian’s shot just beat Pletikosa into the net to make it 2-1. 

Struggling to reach: Pletikosa dived the right way but parried Neymar's effort into the net
The poster boy: Neymar celebrates his finish from the spot to make it 2-1.
Croatia made a substitution in the 78th minute, with Hull’s Nikica Jelavic being replaced by young Fiorentina striker Ante Rebic with just over 10 minutes to try and get back into the match that they were leading. 

Good tracking back by Luiz to chase the danger and execute a perfect sliding challenge on Perisic near the touchline in the 78th minute as Croatia were on the counter attack, as the Croatians began to press for the ball with the realisation that they were trailing with no time to spare.

A real let-off for Brazil after the referee stopped play as Olic scores, but there was a foul after an aerial challenge with Julio Cesar.

Olic was fouled late by Luiz Gustavo, who was consequently booked for the tackle before Neymar was given a standing ovation after being replaced by Ramires in the 87th minute. 

Perisic and Modric both had efforts on-goal parried away by Cesar in the last few minutes of the game, before Brazil went on the counter attack and made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute of stoppage time thanks to a toe-poke strike into the bottom corner of the net by Oscar.

Oscar's effort beat the keeper into the bottom corner of the net, to seal a tense victory.
Unbelievable: Oscar celebrates his first ever World Cup goal with fellow Chelsea team-mate Ramires
A very entertaining game in truth, but Croatia were unlucky not to get at least a point out of a match which was spoilt by controversy and bad refereeing decisions in the end. It does not take away the fact that Brazil won the game without going into top gear.


Encounter: Spain play against Holland in both teams' first group stage match of the tournament
Friday night football, on day 2 of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. The opening match of the day was Mexico vs Cameroon from Group A, and here is a mini match-report from the game:

Mexico are now level on points with host nation Brazil after a 1-0 win over African side Cameroon on a wet and soggy pitch in Natal. A goal on the stroke of the hour mark from under-rated midfielder Oribe Peralta was the only goal of the match, in a game which was controversial for the most part.

Deserved: Peralta celebrates his finish to give Mexico the lead against Cameroon
I think it is safe to say that if Mexico had ended up without winning the match, there would have been outrage and injustice. 

Two disallowed goals from former Tottenham striker Giovani dos Santos - one of which turned out to be an incorrect call by the linesman.

Controversial: dos Santos had two goals disallowed, one of which was the wrong decision!
Mexico dominated for the most part of the game, and eventually got their goal. Bottom corner of the net, no chance for the goalkeeper. 

Cameroon were denied a late equaliser thanks to an acrobatic save by Ochoa from a diving header, close range - as Mexico sealed a slender win in their first match of the tournament.

Now is time for another World Cup match, this time a LIVE Commentary. 

The 2010 World Cup final rematch, the first showdown between Spain and Holland since their head-to-head back in South Africa. Eagerly-awaited, one of the games of the tournament.

To the game: Both Spain and Holland supporters walk towards the stadium in Salvador.
19:50 - The team line-ups are as follows:

Spain: Casillas, Azpilicueta, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Jordi Alba, Alonso, Xavi, Busquets, Silva, Iniesta and Diego Costa. 

Subs: De Gea, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Villa, Torres, Fabregas, Pedro, Mata, Koke, Cazorla and Reina.

Holland: Cillessen, Janmaat, Vlaar, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind, De Guzman, Sneijder, De Jong, van Persie and Robben. 

Subs: Vorm, Verhaegh, Veltman, Kongolo, Kuyt, Clasie, Lens, Fer, Huntelaar, Wijnaldum, Depay and Krul.

A strong line-up for both teams, should be a good game.

19:53 - The teams are walking out of the tunnel, a loud round of applause for both sets of teams from the supporters in the ground. This has the potential to be a great match, possible even better than the opening game yesterday. 

Having said that, it would be fair to say that both teams may appear tentative in the early going, as they both start off their World Cup campaigns. The best two teams in Group B, 

19:55 - The national anthems currently being played, perfectly observed by both sides as the game is about to get underway.

20:00 - The referee looks at his watch, he blows the whistle to signal the start of the match. 

0: Spain kick-off, playing from left to right in a bright white kit. Meanwhile their opponents Holland have a dark shade of blue as their kit tonight. Who will win? 

4: Not a particularly nice welcome by the Brazilian supporters in the stadium for Spain striker Diego Costa, who announced that he would switch countries and elected to play for the current World Cup holders instead of the host nation, back in 2013. Not surprising though either.

5: Some late challenges and needless tackles from both sides in the early stages. It could easily be another feisty affair, just like it was back in 2010. 

6: An ambitious long-ball over the top of the Spanish defence by Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar, towards van Persie. Pique deals with the danger and heads the ball back into the path of Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, a very experienced goalkeeper for both club and country. 

7: A glorious opportunity for Holland in the early minutes. A great through ball in-behind the Spain defence by Robben finds team-mate Sneijder with only Casillas to beat.

But the Galatasaray midfielder slots the ball straight into the path of Casillas who pats the effort away with his glove. 

8: Spain were made to look very vulnerable at the back there, Sneijder could have easily given Holland a 1-0 lead. 

9: Another half-chance, this time from Spain. Alonso passes the ball into the path of team-mate Iniesta who weaves his way past a defender and has a strike from 25-yards out towards goal, which swerves over the bar. Unlucky from the Barca man.

12: Good defending by Holland. Some space on the left-hand side near the 18-yard box is spotted by Barcelona midfielder Xavi, who passes the ball onto Diego Costa. 

Costa runs onto the ball, but hesitates for a split second and is denied the chance to shoot by a last-gasp sliding challenge from Vlaar. Costa picks up the ball again but Vlaar blocks his effort to get back into the area. 

15: Two free-kicks in quick succession for Spain, after de Jong clatters into Alonso before Sneijder is adjudged to foul Busquets, although replays show that the Barcelona midfielder fell to the ground too easily. 

17: Another half-chance goes to waste, this time for Spain. A long ball falls into the path of striker Diego Costa who lashes at the strike without looking at the target. 

His effort ends up hitting the advertising board on the far side, near the goal but not on target. Wasteful.

19: Awkward. Arjen Robben attempts to put his boot back on after Ramos appears to have stomped on his leg and broken the lace.

For some reason, the Bayern winger decides to sit on the far side of the pitch instead of sitting on the touchline, and his decision is met by a chorus of boos from the supporters - who are eager to see play carry on.

22: First corner of the game comes from Spain, as David Silva weaves his magic and beats his markers with ease before getting himself stuck in a tight spot near the touchline. 

A high ball into the area by Xavi, is almost met by Real Madrid centre-back Sergio Ramos who jumps highest to meet the delivery unmarked, but to no avail. A let-off for the Dutchmen.

24: First yellow card of the game goes to Swansea midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, who runs into the back of Iniesta and collides with him. Harsh. 

25: PENALTY! Spain have a golden chance to break the deadlock, half-way through the first-half. A great through ball by Xavi penetrates the Holland defence once again, to find team-mate Diego Costa. Costa weaves past one defender, who trips the Atletico Madrid man up as he gets past him.

No hesitation from the referee, no protests. 

26: Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso steps up to take the penalty. Can he score and give Spain the lead? GOAL! Well-taken from the experienced central midfielder, Cillessen dived the right way but was never stopping a shot of that power and accuracy. Low and hard into the bottom corner of the net. 

Bullet strike: Alonso breaks the deadlock from the penalty spot to give Spain a 1-0 lead.
Clinical: Alonso is then mobbed by the rest of his team-mates, after the opener. 
31: Holland have clearly reacted positively to going a goal down. Pushing Spain back into their own half, using Robben on the wing to try and spread the play out and attract markers as a distraction. Still an open game, despite the scoreline. 

33: Spain have a chance to regroup after a foul is given, when defender Bruno Martins Indi pulls onto the shirt of Iniesta, much to the unhappiness of the referee. 

38: A close offside call after a good long ball through past the Spain defence unleashes Robben who runs at pace towards the ball, but realises soon enough that he was offside and a free-kick is awarded to the side leading. 

Spain have a tendency to push their players forward when they are comfortable with possession, if Holland can catch them when they are vulnerable on the counter attack then they could test Casillas. 

40: Netherlands defender Stefan De Vrij gets the second booking of the match after clattering into the side of an approaching David Silva, looking to find a team-mate in space. A painful knock for the Manchester City creative midfielder, but he should be able to run it off. 

42: CHANCE! Very close to being 2-0 for Spain, a superb through ball pass by Iniesta finds the run of David Silva unmarked, he drifts towards the goalkeeper and attempts to chip Cillessen who is off his line - but the keeper manages to get fingertips to the effort and the ball results in a corner. 
Would have been a great goal aswell. Unlucky. 

Fingertip save: Silva's chip was parried away by Cillessen, to stop Spain from going 2-0 ahead
43: GOAL! And what a goal it is! Holland equalise out of the blue, on the counter attack, where Spain are at their most vulnerable. A great through ball into the box by left-back Daley Blind for Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, he sees Casillas off his line and jumps high to head the ball over Casillas into the net. 

Perfectly executed: van Persie heads high to beat Casillas off his line with a great finish
What a finish. van Persie runs over to celebrate with national and newly-appointed club manager van Gaal, and the game has been turned on its head. 

Great viewing: van Persie runs off to celebrate his superb header with manager Louis van Gaal
45: The fourth official has signalled for just the 1 minute of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the first-half. 

45+1: The referee blows his whistle to end the first-half.
Spain 1, Holland 1. Brilliantly poised for the next 45 minutes, already a better game than the final four years ago.

21:03 - The referee has blown the whistle to start the second-half of action, score is currently 1-1.

No substitutes as of yet, as it looks like rain is starting to fall on the pitch despite the high humidity.

49: An ambitious effort from Iniesta, 25 yards out towards goal as the ball slides against the wet pitch towards Cilessen, who parries the ball to his right and finally grabs onto it after a few seconds.

51: Holland starting to pass the ball around well in the final third, but yet to get past the Spain back-four with a killer through ball in the early stages of the second period. 

52: Spain are normally the team more well-known for their passing and possession, but it's been all Holland so far after the break.

53: GOAL! Another great finish, this time from Bayern winger Arjen Robben. He controls the ball perfectly after a good delivery by Blind into the area, before weaving past Pique and avoiding the impending challenge of Ramos. 

He shifts the ball onto his other side and slots the ball past Casillas who is wrong-footed and watches in dispair as the ball trickles past him into the net. 2-1, and Holland take the lead for the first time during the game.   

Exploited: Robben weaves his magic and smashes a drive past Ramos and Alba into the net
Bold statement: Robben proves his worth with a great solo finish against Spain
55: Controversy now. Spain corner about to be taken, and it appears that Holland defender Bruno Martins Indi is down in the area, clutching his face.

56: Replays show that Costa headbutted the young centre-back in his face, and if the referee saw the incident, I am confident that he would have sent the Brazilian-born striker off.

Stupid thing to do, Costa has a fiery temper and it's clear to see yet again now. 

58: IF Spain lose tonight, it will raise more questions and fears over the fact that it's an end of the "tika-taka" era which has dominated modern football in the past 10 years.

59: OFF THE BAR! Another wonder strike from Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, this time from the far side with a fierce volley which rattles Casillas' crossbar.

However, replays show that he was offside, even though the linesman's flag was NOT up.

61: Substitutions from both sides coming now:
Holland - 
Jonathan de Guzman OFF
Georginio Wijnaldum ON

Meanwhile Spain - 
Diego Costa and Xabi Alonso OFF
Fernando Torres and Pedro ON

64: GOAL! Arguably controversial again, but it's a goal! Holland now lead 3-1, after a free-kick delivery into the box is poorly dealt with by the Spanish defence and Casillas rushes out to parry but fails to get there in time as van Persie clashes into the Real Madrid keeper.

The ball trickles down next to the post, for defender Stefan De Vrij to tap into the net and give the Dutch a 2-goal advantage. 

Defensive mistake: Spain failed to deal with the danger from the set-piece, and Holland scored!
Scrappy: Holland defender Stefan De Vrij celebrates his tap-in
65: It's all kicking off now. Spain are angry and feel aggrieved that the goal was given, Casillas is booked after protesting that he was fouled and Holland continue to pressure.

Robin van Persie then goes into the referee's book after a late challenge on sub Pedro.

66: DISALLOWED GOAL! David Silva will feel unlucky, Cillessen parries a swerving effort to his left but the Manchester City man pounces on his chance and taps the ball into the net, to halve the deficit. But, the linesman flags for offside and Spain have to start all over again. 

68: Great build-up play by Holland - as they press for the killer goal in the match. Robben running at the Spain centre-halves with pace and close-control dribbling with ease, as van Persie holds up the ball on the wing and looks for a target in the area with a cross, but no-one is there as support. 

71: GOAL! ANOTHER ONE. 4-1 and it's just getting more embarrassing for Casillas. He attempts to collect a backpass but loses possession to an approaching van Persie who picks up the pieces to slot into an empty net.

Toe-poke: van Persie took advantage of another bad mistake on a horror night for Spain
A terrible mistake from one of the best goalkeepers in world football, a day to forget. A lucky goal to score, but Holland certainly won't mind. 

72: An exciting and unpredictable game, just like I said it would be. I have to say though, I would have expected Spain to have challenged for longer. Casillas has had a nightmare game tonight, at least three of Holland's goals have been his fault. 

74: The Holland supporters are screaming and shouting in the night rain as their team are dominating the game now. 4-1, and all Spain supporters will be begging for the final whistle before it gets even worse.

75: Netherlands SUB - 
Stefan De Vrij OFF
Joel Veltman ON

76: Spain have a free-kick from 20 yards out, can they do anything with the set-piece? Ramos steps up to take it.

77: Curled to the far post of Cillesen's goal by the Real Madrid defender, even though the Netherlands goalkeeper probably had the effort covered.

78: Substutions for both sides now, with Robin van Persie being replaced by winger Jeremain Lens to a warm round of applause from the Holland supporters, the Manchester United striker has worked hard tonight and deserved the goals he has. 

Robben takes the captain's armband off his team-mate after they embrace. A deadly partnership between them tonight, they have DISMANTLED the World Cup holders. 

Meanwhile, newly announced Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas replaces Manchester City midfielder David Silva.

79: GOAL! It goes from bad to worse, to horrible for Spain. 1-0 up, now 5-1 DOWN. Robben goes on the counter attack and bursts past Ramos with electric pace before turning Casillas inside out and slotting the ball into the empty net despite Ramos and Alba both trying to block the shot on the goal-line. 

Destruction: Robben shows the cameras (and supporters) the score, having scored twice
Unbelievable stuff now, if you had told anyone that the scoreline would be 5-1 they wouldn't have believed you for sure. 

82: Spain do look vulnerable on the counter attack, and they have been exploited once again tonight. 5-1 down, and it's been one of those games that you just do not want to remember. 

Sweet revenge for the Dutch, having lost the World Cup final cruelly in the dying moments of extra time thanks to a last-gasp strike by Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta. 

86: DOUBLE CHANCE! Holland almost hit Spain for six as they go on a quick counter attack with Sneijder and Wijnaldum.

The latter takes a shot from outside the box, Casillas parries and the ball is partially cleared but bounces back into the path of Robben who sweetly connects with the ball to make Casillas dive to his left and palm it away. 

89: Spain all over the place as they wait patiently for the referee's whistle. A positive to take out of the match is that they lost their first match of the World Cup in South Africa, against Switzerland and went onto win the tournament.

The side look disorganised, shocked and are clearly out of it.

90: The fourth official signals for 4 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the match. 5-1 to Holland.

90+1: Sums up the game. Ball falls to Torres from close range with the goal gaping, but an approaching defender rushes and clears the danger as the Chelsea striker hesitates to take the shot.

90+2: Spain just want the final whistle to blow now, low on morale and Holland are enjoying this. 

90+4: The referee blows his whistle for the last time during the match. FULL-TIME - Holland thrash Spain by 5 goals to 1, despite going a goal behind thanks to a Xabi Alonso penalty.

Two Dutch-doubles from Bayern winger Arjen Robben and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie as well as a tap-in from defender Stefan De Vrij gave the Dutch side a huge boost of confidence as they look to go far in the international tournament, and hopefully do one better than last time out and win the whole thing in Brazil this year.

Harsh contrast: Holland players wheel away while Casillas (centre) looks dejected.
Dismantling Spain shows a clear signal of intent, and it is inevitable that there will be questions asked about Spain after being mauled 5-1. Stunning result from Group B, a thrilling opening encounter. 

I will be back later with more World Cup action, for more follow me on these social networking sites: - my Twitter - my Facebook - my Google+

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