Brazil brings World Cup to life with thrilling win

Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:16am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Seven years a hostage to threats of violent demonstrations and crippling labor strikes, the World Cup broke free on Thursday when Brazil brought the tournament to life with Neymar scoring twice in a thrilling 3-1 win over Croatia.

It was far from vintage Brazil at times, impatient in possession and unsure in defense, but once they hit full stride they were impossible to resist - the inimitable Neymar and ebullient Oscar taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

After falling behind to an 11th minute own goal from unfortunate defender Marcelo, forward Neymar equalized with a terrific strike from outside the box before converting the softest of penalties late in the second half.

Midfielder Oscar capped an outstanding performance with a goal of true quality in stoppage time that sealed the three points for Brazil and brought an enormous roar of relief from the 62,103 crowd at Sao Paulo's Corinthians arena.

For 22-year-old Neymar, scoring twice on a night when the World Cup returned to the spiritual home of football was beyond his wildest dreams.

"I’m very happy, really happy indeed, more than I ever dreamed or imagined," the man of the match told reporters.

"We started off on the right foot, with a victory.

"The merit belongs to the team as a whole, which remained cool and calm to come from behind and win."   Continued...

Brazil's Neymar celebrates his goal against Croatia during their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj