A desperately poor opening match of the 2014 World Cup was effectively settled by a penalty awarded, along with a yellow card, for a non-existent foul by Croatia’s Dejan Lovren after Fred tumbled theatrically to ground while probably fouling Lovren.
Oscar’s neat stoppage-time toe poke gave the scoreline a flattering look – 3-1 – but the damage was done by the fraudulent penalty.
Yuichi Nishimura, the Japanese referee, ought to be on a plane back to Tokyo tomorrow. He had already allowed himself to be fooled repeatedly by Brazilian play-acting in less dangerous parts of the pitch.
Just like watching Brazil, Barnsley fans used to chant. After this limp, skill-free apology for a curtain-raiser, we should be wondering whether seeing the hosts in action is a bit like watching Barnsley.
Neymar took his first goal well, though it was a somewhat speculative long-range shot to equalise a comical own goal by Marcelo who bundled the ball into his own net off an ankle after a decent Ivica Olic cross was completely mishit by Nikica Jelavic.
But Stipe Pletikosa very nearly saved Neymar’s unimpressive penalty kick. And Croatia had half-chances to draw level at 2-2 immediately before the third goal.
Otherwise, lots of Brazilian possession, a few promising Croatian breaks and endless misplaced passes, wasted possession and dreary approach work. Now that was like watching Sunderland in the depths of last season’s more gloomy spells. Any comparison with the noble Brazils of old would be embarrassing. They’ll now go on and win every game in style just to confound me.
Salut! Sunderland‘s own bit of World Cup news is that the United States are our second team, as voted by thumping majority of those who have taken part in our poll. That puts an even greater onus on Jozy Altidore to bang in a few goals and return raring for Premier action.
Voting remains open. If third-placed Belgium or, should England be eliminated, second-placed Uruguay overtake the USA, our second team will change identity accordingly.