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World Cup kicks off with Brazil’s cracking win over Croatia

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The opening game of the FIFA World Cup 2014 had all the ingredients for an exhilarating start to the biggest sporting extravaganza

Sau Paulo: The opening game of the FIFA World Cup 2014 had all the ingredients for an exhilarating start to the biggest sporting extravaganza, here on Thursday.

It began with an own goal by Marcelo: not the start the host nation wanted after being convulsed by anti-tournament protests in the buildup.

Then wonder boy Neymar emerged as a true hero as he rose to occasion by slamming an equalizer before converting a highly controversial penalty to send the 60,000 plus gathering into an ecstatic frenzy.

The 22-year old, playing his first World Cup game, was under tremendous pressure and scrutiny for his prodigious talent and the star Barcelona striker did exactly what was expected of him.

To add icing on the cake, Oscar, whose selection was debated, toed the ball from a distance into the goal post in dying moments to complete the win.

Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura though was dubbed as villain for his dubious decision to award penalty, leaving Croatian team and their fans heartbroken. Fred had backed into Croatian defender Dejan Lovren and fell over, an act which Nishimura punished.

“If anybody saw that was a penalty, let them raise their hand. I cannot raise my hand. I didn’t see it,” Crotian coach Niko Kovac fumed.

“If you continue in this vein then there will be 100 penalties during this World Cup.”

But in one of the most exciting opening games in a World Cup, witnessed by 12 heads of states, Brazil made a prefect start in their quest to lift the Cup for a record sixth time.

The victory triggered celebration across Sao Paulo when hours before the opening ceremony, police had to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to defuse a fresh protest near a subway station.

PTI

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