1-0.. Croatia had scored. At São Paulo. The crowd was silent. The handful of Croatian supporters broke into a frenzy. What a way to kick off the world cup, with an own goal. Marcelo being the culprit. Olic crossed, Jelavic miscued and Marcelo scored, inadvertently of course. Little did he know he’d go down in the history books as the scorer of the one and only Brazilian own-goal, to date in the World Cup Finals.
A couple of hours earlier, the World Cup kicked off with the customary opening ceremony, filled with glitz and glamour, enabling the viewers to soak in the natural beauty of the host country. And what better country to showcase its beauty and diversity than Brazil, the unofficial mecca of football. A country which has arguably tasted footballing success like none other. A country so crazed by football, that every small boy would buy his first playing ball before he even went to school!
Controversies abounded leading up to the world cup, with numerous construction related deaths, structural deficiencies, protests regarding the high costs, but all would be forgotten once the World Cup is underway! It’s Brazil after all, a country as crazy about football as India about cricket. Technical glitches notwithstanding, the opening ceremony managed to showcase Brazil as we all know it. The amazing greenery, the vast expanses of natural beauty (both terrains and otherwise). The crowd seemed to enjoy every moment of it! Up until Croatia scored!
Brazil has never lost the opening match of any World Cup and the fans expected no different this time around, no matter if the team doesn’t match upto the quality of the Brazilian teams of the yesteryears. The fans expected Brazil to win it. And when they went 1-0 down, the fans were distraught, almost angry. How could they, would’ve been the chants emanating from the stands. But they did. Brazil had just scored an own goal! To be fair to the players, they’d understood the kind of pressure they faced and went about their work as professionals. Discontentment was growing. The fans were getting agitated. The tension was almost palpable. Mr. Scolari, always so animated on the sidelines, was a picture of composure. It was almost as if he knew the goals would come. He knew the team he’d put out would not disappoint him. And disappoint they didn’t.
Neymar, who could consider himself lucky to stay on the pitch after a debatable offence on Luka Modric, scored. However, the true credit went to one Mr. Oscar. The man behind the scenes and for me and almost everyone I spoke to after the game, the player of the match. Oscar didn’t lose the ball inspite of being tackled and tackled and tackled. This wasn’t the first time. He wrestled control of the ball from the Croats, deployed a masterful pass to Neymar, who still had work to do. Neymar sprinted forward, in a manner only he could and without assessing any options, opted to go for goal himself. An accurate shot, low but accurate. Brazil had scored. Faith was restored! The crowd erupted with joy.
Half-time came and went by. The crowd now wanted a win. Almost half way into the second half, Brazil got an opening after wasting a plethora of chances. A penalty. Fred, the almost innocuous looking forward, who by and large was ineffective up unto this point, was fouled in the box by Lovren. Lovren was judged to have put his hand across Fred to bring him down. Controversial. But, Brazil didn’t care. Neymar stepped up, the crowd was silent. Neymar stumbled on his run-in to put the goalkeeper off and so he did. The goalkeeper put in a dive to the correct side but couldn’t do much. Neymar had suddenly transformed from a boy with big potential, to a man! That’s what football does, it makes and breaks heroes in seconds. That’s the game.
Brazil went onto score one more. The player of the match (unofficially) Oscar got a goal to show for his untiring efforts and sublime skills. A player to watch out for in this tournament, considering his phenomenal club form as well.
This was just the first game of the World Cup Finals, but each player celebrated as if it was the Cup Final. The pressure and expectations were huge and more than anything they managed to deliver.
An exciting start to the greatest Football Spectacle on this planet. Lots more to come. Stay tuned.