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Brazil didn’t get the performance they wanted, but they did get all three points in the opening match against Croatia. It could have been a very different story but for some shaky goalkeeping from Croatia’s Stipe Pletikosa and a very dubious second-half penalty that gave Brazil the lead, but who are we to argue about the home side getting a little lot of help?

Soccer: World Cup-Brazil vs Croatia

Things we enjoyed

1. The opening ceremony will not go down as a classic, but Brazil’s anthem will

All opening ceremonies need themes, and this time we were treated to the three great pillars of Brazil’s existence: Nature, People and Football. Which means, apparently, anthropomophic broccoli on stilts, a confused looking man in a canoe, and acrobats with their heads trapped inside skeletal soccer balls. Lacking the energetic delight of South Africa 2010, and never quite attaining the truly surreal heights of France 1998, the low point came when the obligatory exploding giant ball opened to reveal a gurning Pitbull *with his football shirt tucked into his trousers*. Unforgiveable. Still, J-Lo and Cláudia Leitte looked like they were having fun.

More dubious ritual followed, and FIFA will be hoping that their dove-releasing ceremony goes better as the tournament unfolds. Two of yesterday’s birds were so confused by their role — “FIFA? World peace? But I just don’t understand my motivation” — that they flew straight into the stadium walls and were dead before Croatia scored. But if the official pomp didn’t quite hit the spot, the apparently-impromptu a cappella second verse of the Bazil national anthem more than made up for it. A number of Brazil’s players were moved to tears, and the world was treated to the finest, slightly-flat display of footballing patriotism since Ivan Zamorano did this.

2. Fortunately for Marcelo, his own goal against Croatia proved little more than a blip in match referee Yuichi Nishimura’s grand triumph in the opening game of the World Cup. But had it mattered, Marcelo would have been well within his rights to give Croatia striker Nikica Jelavic a rather thorough kicking.

The Real Madrid left back was one of the few Brazilian players who didn’t do anything wrong on the play — the break came down the right side and Marcelo’s positioning was essentially flawless — but he was humiliated on the global stage thanks so some utterly atrocious finishing by Jelavic.

With Thiago Silva and Dani Alves caught way out of position, Jelavic had a free shot on goal after Ivica Olic’s excellent low cross. All he needed to do was to redirect the ball past Julio Cesar and into the back of the net. Instead, he barely got a touch on it, diverting the flight of the cross just enough that it bounced off Marcelo (covering for a rebound) and went straight in.

The first goal of the World Cup featured a shot so bad that it humiliated an innocent bystander. This sport can be cruel sometimes.

-Graham MacAree

The Daily Diary

Guilherme Cruz (Brazil)

That was not a penalty. But we don’t care.

Thank you, Yuichi Nishimura.

Brazil won the first 2014 World Cup match against Croatia, and Nishimura helped us. Nishimura, the same referee of Brazil vs. Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup quarter finals, when Robben kicked us out from the World Cup in South Africa, helped us this time in Sao Paulo.

I’m not saying that we needed it. But yes, we needed it.

A couple hours before the opening match at Corinthians’ stadium, everybody I know was in supermarkets buying beers for their own parties. We knew we would win the match. No way Croatia would ruin the party — especially now that Mandzukic was out of the game.

But they did. Actually, Marcello did.

Brazil didn’t do well against Serbia the last game before the World Cup, and neither against Croatia. I know Croatia was not the easiest opponent for the opening match, but Neymar took care of the job for us, as he scored the first goal for Brazil (Marcello, you scored for Croatia).

We were optimistic going to the second half. Brazil, the only team to be in every single World Cup ever, had only lost twice in 19 World Cup opening games, and that’s when Nishimura became the main star of the match.

A controversial penalty kick when Fred went down, and Neymar scored.

2-1 Brazil.

I don’t care. Nobody cares, actually.

You have to understand one thing about Brazil. We want to win, and we won’t care it it’s legal or not. It tastes better when it’s illegal, some would say.

The referee helped us with the penalty and we’re thankful for that. Thank you, Nishimura.

The big screen showed Brazil president Dilma Rousseff celebrating the second goal as the crowd told her to go f— herself. The situation in Brazil is not good right now, in case you didn’t know that. Protests, riots all over the place. But Neymar is here, so we’re happy.

Six games left.

It was not the best showing ever, but Brazilian fans are confident.

Get ready, Mexico. We’re coming for you.

Will you be there, Yuichi Nishimura?

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