Story of the half: A slow start from the tournament favorites gave Croatia two chances within 11 minutes, the second of which ended in a Marcelo own goal. Just after the 20th minute, however, the true Brazil started to shine through, leading to a 29th minute equalizer from Neymar. Through the game reached the break 1-1, Brazil was on the front foot at the first half whistle.
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Goals (and how they happened):
11′ – Marcelo (o.g.) – Ivica Olic’s ball rolled in from the left looked innocuous enough, but after Nikica Jelavic tipped the pass beyond a sliding David Luiz, Marcelo was caught off guard. His one-touch finish into his own net gave Croatia a shock lead. The was the first own goal in Brazil’s World Cup history. Croatia, 1-0.
29′ – Neymar – It looked like a speculative shot, especially when the Brazil star scuffed his try from 24 yards, but a slow reaction from Stipe Pletikosa saw Neymar’s shot take advantage of Arena Corinthians’ perfectly manicured pitch. The bouncing equalizer inched inside the lower-left hand corner. Even, 1-1.
Other key moments:
7′ – Even before Marcelo’s generosity, Croatia had a chance to draw first blood. Following a pass intercepted at the edge of Brazil’s attacking third turning, a quick opportunity from the right flank allowed Ivan Perisic to cross far post for Ivica Olic. The snap header went wide of the mark, but Croatia had served notice.
21′-22′- More of a span than a moment, but near the middle of the half, Brazil finally woke up. Bursting through the defense in the right of the box, Paulinho put a shot from 10 yards right at Stipe Pletikosa – Brazil’s first serious chance of the match. A minute later, a ball played from the byline by Neymar was tipped out to Oscar, who forced Pletikosa to punch a ball driven toward the keeper’s right post.
27′ – An arm to the head of Luka Modric showed Neymar’s disapproval of the Croatian’s new haircut. It also drew the tournament’s first yellow card. Neymar’s not a particularly foul-prone player, but he has been known to make the most of contact. Now, he’s one card away from being dismissed (or, in another game, earning a suspension).
- Ivica Olic, Croatia – the workhorse forward, deployed wide left, took advantage of a shaky right side of the Brazilian defense, earning an early chance and “assisting” on Marcelo’s 11th minute misstep.
- Neymar, Brazil – Even before his equalizer, the Brazilian star had started to assert himself. Brought in from wide to play through the middle, the Selecao’s best player had little trouble finding the ball.
Question(s) for the second half:
- Will Croatia pull back? – The underdogs started a relatively ambitious lineup, but with their success as the onset having waned, will (or, when) Croatia pull back and play for a point?
- Can Brazil get Oscar involved? – Luiz Felipe Scolari moving Neymar to the middle pushed the Chelsea midfielder to a wide, somewhat anonymous position. If Oscar is not going to be more involved, Brazil may as well play somebody who can help protect Dani Alves.
- How worrisome is that Brazilian right? – Dani Alves was poor on the Perisic cross, and the Croatia goal was built down the Croatia left. We can only take so much from a 45-minute stretch, but given what we knew about Alves coming into this tournament, how much problematic is the right side of Brazil’s defense?