Croatia left fuming over Fred flop in Sao Paulo: how Stats Zone saw Brazil 3-1 Croatia
The host nation have never lost the opening game of a World Cup finals, but opponents Croatia weren't in Sao Paulo simply to make up the numbers.
Niko Kovac's men counter-attacked to good effect in the early stages, with Mateo Kovacic and Ivica Olic seeing efforts fly off target. And despite completing just 4 attacking third passes, the underdogs were ahead inside seven minutes.
By the 20-minute mark, the host nation were enjoying 75% of the possession yet Croatia continued to hold their own, particularly down the left flank with Sime Vrsaljko and 34-year-old battler Ivica Olic.
The wily Wolfsburg forward was putting in a sterling shift, winning more tackles than anyone else on the pitch in the first half as well as sending in the low cross for Croatia's goal.
All square at half-time thanks to Neymar's daisy-cutter, the stage was set for Oscar to wrestle the momentum back in Brazil's favour. The Chelsea midfielder tailed off at the end of last season but was back to his scintillating best on the right flank, capping his stellar showing with a goal to add to 3 chances created, 7/11 take-ons completed and 4/6 tackles made.
Yet the contest hinged on a controversial penalty awarded by Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura for Dejan Lovren's 'challenge' on Fred. Up until that point Brazil had been struggling to make an impression in and around the Croatians' penalty area, predominantly probing down the right flank.
While defeat will leave a bitter taste in the mouth, Croatia's late riposte proved they can still qualify from Group A. Mainly thanks to a late flurry in search of an equaliser, Kovac's side fired in 11 shots to Brazil's 14, while in the second half they even managed to complete more attacking-third passes than their illustrious hosts.
They'll need to lower the foul count, though; both Lovren and Vedran Corluka entered the referee's notebook as Croatia commited 20 fouls throughout the contest compared to Brazil's measly 5 - their joint-lowest total in any World Cup match from 1966 to present.
Facts and figures
- Croatia’s opening goal was the first time Brazil have been credited with an own goal in World Cup history.
- Neymar has scored 6 goals in his last 4 appearances for Brazil.
- Neymar has scored 33 goals in only 50 appearances for Brazil.
- He's the first player to score 2+ goals in his first World Cup game since David Villa for Spain vs Ukraine.
- Oscar has scored 4 times in his last 8 appearances for Brazil.
- No Brazilian has missed a penalty in a World Cup game (excluding shootouts) since Zico in 1986 (vs France).
- Brazil’s first shot of the second half came in the 67th minute.
- No host nation has ever lost their opening game at the World Cup.
- Brazil have now won 9 of their last 10 group games at World Cups.
- Both teams have scored in the last 3 opening games at World Cups (Germany 4-2 Costa Rica in 2006 and South Africa 1-1 Mexico in 2010).
- There were only 2 own goals during the entire 2010 World Cup tournament.