The victory was as predicted for Brazil against Croatia, but the performance was certainly not. Brazil won the game 3-1 but that scoreline flattered the Selecao in the World Cup opener in Sao Paolo. In the aftermath, Neymar will grab all the headlines for his two goals, but Brazil coach Luis Felipe Scolari would be wise to ignore those particular headlines and concentrate solely on the performance of his team.
Croatia were very unfortunate not to come away from the game with a draw, at least. They went ahead through a Marcelo own goal and looked relatively comfortable until Neymar stepped up to score from long range. The Brazilian attacker looked like he actually scuffed the shot, but you have to give him some credit, the ball did find its way into the net from his shot regardless.
Brazil delicately probed for a second goal but they were not particularly threatening — the threats came only in spurts where individual quality shone through as you would expect. The second goal came from a penalty, which really was not a penalty and Fred clearly fooled the referee into giving the decision. Neymar took the penalty and the Croatia goalkeeper, Stipe Pletikosa, really should have saved it.
The shot was at a perfect height for him and not too powerful. He got both hands on the ball but somehow let it slip through into the net. Croatia then managed to score a deserved equalizing goal but the referee disallowed it due to a foul on the Brazil goalkeeper, Julio Cesar, which actually was quite clearly not a foul on the goalkeeper. Brazil then grabbed the crucial third goal although, again, it should have been saved by Pletikosa. It wasn’t, though, and that goal merely served to put the icing on a not particularly appetizing cake for Brazil.
Croatia played well, but just made too many individual errors in the end to get the result that the overall team performance deserved. Brazil on the other hand also played well, but were ultimately gifted with the 3-1 scoreline. They got out of jail with some of the referee decisions, but you take them where you get them.
Now the question for Brazil going forward will be, can they pick it up? Or is this it? Better teams than Croatia will punish them if they perform like this later in the tournament. For now, though, a win is a win. And the next game will bring a chance to show an improved performance, and maybe Brazil will get stronger and grow into the tournament the further they go. For their sake, they will have to.