Justin Cook’s World Cup Diary - Day 4
As I sit here on my leisurely six hour lay over at Brasilia airport on the way to Manaus I have the chance to update you all. Today was the day: the World Cup started in earnest in the ill-fated Arena de São Paulo, hosts Brazil taking on Croatia.
The opening ceremony was really quite gentle and fitting till J-Lo and Pitbull (panto)mimed their way through the World Cup song completely out of sync and then the World Cup started for real.
I watched the game in a local square with the Brazilian community with my good friend Danielle Leonel. The mood had lifted sum what from earlier in the week and although there was rioting going on in Rio & Belo Horitonze and the protestors had tried to block the road to the SP stadium, it was on.
Brazil started rather poorly and Croatia were all over them taking the fight to their front door but then the shock of Marcelo scoring a home goal and gifting the lead to Croatia stunned the arena and the community square and you could see the look of horror on all the beautiful faces.
Brazil seemed not to be creating the chances they should of been considering the talent they have in their ranks and Croatia kept sweeping down the left wing pinging balls straight into the box.
Then it happened...the softest penalty you have ever seen and Neymar stepped up and fired it like a bullet off the desperate hands of the keeper and into the net. 1-1. Marcelo sighed a relief I bet.
Croatia came back strong but David Luiz and Oscar started to really come into their own and more than once Luiz saved Brazils bacon defending the balls coming into the box.
At times it was like watching Chelsea with Luiz and Oscar having a six sense together. Croatia were still not beaten but when Neymar slotted the second in from a great pass from Oscar the writing was on the wall.
The third goal was personally my favourite with Oscar toe punting it past the keeper with a brilliant bit of skill, and deservedly Oscar was named man of the match. Marcelo however was really beaten up by Croatia and I bet his shins are very sore after Croatia kept bringing him down again and again all night.
Also A few yellow cards were given in the match must notably from Neymar deliberately giving Luka Modric a forearm smash into the face and really being the World Cup should of been a straight red in my opinion and for sure home court advantage played a huge part in it only being a yellow and without a doubt in my view the ref bottled it due to the stature of the occasion.
If it had been Howard Webb it would of been a straight red.
Neymar will have to be very careful going forward as he now has a yellow that carries into the next match and anymore petulance from the baby faced thumb sucker and Brazil will loose talisman in the vital group stage.
So all in all the first game of the tournament did not disappoint and Croatia gave a good account of themselves but I am afraid just not good enough.
Also during the match the sound of fireworks and bangers could be heard everywhere in the city and indeed in the square and you felt the city of São Paulo rocking.
Oh yes, and so far I’ve only seen two England fans eating in a bar. I guess they must be all up in Manaus getting caught out by the sun in a classic mad dogs and Englishman scenario but will confirm that later when I arrive at approximately 7am tomorrow.
This was not a classic Brazil performance and Croatia caused them problems right to the end, but a win is win, however scrappy, and I think that the happiest face in the arena was Dilma Rousseff the Brazil president who almost jumped into the heavens with the result, as Brazil delivered the only result that she really needed to justify the costs incurred both financially and socially to the country of Brazil.
Sitting next to Rousseff was Sept Blatter surely realising this could be his last tournament of enjoying his seat in the gods and mentally preparing for his future seating arrangements in the cheap seats.
The atmosphere in the square was awesome with young and old all jumping for joy for the win and you it struck me that Brazil really needs to win this tournament for the sake of unity within Brazil but when they come up against a decent team I think things could be different.
So with my heavy eyes I will bed down on this concrete floor for a couple of hours of shut eye in the penthouse in the basement. The signs were all there this was going to be a great snooze.
Read Day 3 here
Read Day 5 here