2418 days after Brazil had been officially confirmed as the hosts of the 2014 FIFA world cup, at 7pm on a Thursday the wait was over and the opening ceremony began.
The build up to this world cup has been far from harmonious. With fresh allegations of corruption over the controversial decision to award the 2022 world cup to Qatar and Sepp Blatter some how bridging the gap between these allegations and racism. This and over reasons have resulted in many in the football world calling for the end of Mr. Blatters reign over the governing body of world football. These calls seemingly only made Sepp Blatter’s resolve to stand for re-election after the world cup much stronger.
There has also been unrest domestically in Brazil with the impending tournament. The cause of the protests are not for us to comment on, only knowing very little we wouldn’t want to misrepresent the people of Brazil. But it is easy to understand the people of Brazil’s issue with their government overspending on the football tournament which many see as unwanted, along with accusations of corruption, which seem to follow Blatter’s lead as head of FIFA around.
On the outside of the stadium protesters and police clashed with tear gas and claims of excessive force, on the inside of the stadium though the scene was set for the opening ceremony. We have watched many opening ceremonies over the years and with Brazil’s tradition of carnivals we were particularly looking forward to this one and for the most part it didn’t disappoint. With its array of colourful costumes and choreography it was enjoyable, even if a little difficult to follow the story. The only poor part of the performance was the official song performed by Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudie Lettie. The song itself wasn’t horrendous , what we could hear of it, but the sound quality was poor for the audience both watch at home and in the stadium.
As the national anthem for Brazil is played and the players sing each and every single word with a passion, which as Englishmen made us a bit envious. As the camera focuses on the crest of the Brazilian football team, with the 5 stars above, representing each time their country had won the cup, you can’t help but wonder if by the final on the 13th July a sixth will be added.
As the game starts, each team is cautious not wanting to risk the game in the opening minutes. It’s clear that Croatia are happy for Brazil to have the bulk of possession, without “parking the bus,” as the coach of Croatia, former international Niko Kovac said in the press conference the day before the game. When Croatia did get the ball they were far more direct with their play than Brazil were. Brazil were more controlled and considered, with former Bayern Munich and current Wolfsberg player Gustavo pulling the strings for Brazil deep in midfield.
The first goal of the 2014 world cup is hardly likely to make it on anyone’s best opening goals compilation lists. In one of the few occasions where Croatia broke forward with the ball, a cross from the left wing by No. 18 Olic was missed by No.9 Jelavic and cruelly deflected into the Brazilian net by Brazil’s own Marcelo.
Can you score too soon?
The scoreline didn’t match what was written in the script, but fortunately Brazil still had 79 minutes to turn the game around, which is exactly what happened 29 minutes in, when Neymar’s far from perfectly hit shot found the bottom corner of the Croatian net.
After half time came the deciding factor, not only for the result of the game but for the reason this opening game will be remembered.
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded Brazil a penalty after Fred’s dramatic fall to the ground, appearing to be impeded by Lovren in the box. Like the foul that was considered to have caused the penalty to be given the set piece itself was fortunate, with Croatian keeper Pletikosa managing to get his hands to the ball, but only managing to push the ball inside as opposed to the outside the post.
And although Croatia had some chances to equalise the result was cemented when just after the 90 minutes Oscar hit an early shot which alluded the keeper and crept inside the left hand post.
Controversy breeds Controversy
Its unfortunate that the opening game of the 2014 world cup will be remembered for a controversial penalty decision, but considering the controversial build up to the world cup for one reason or another makes it rather fitting. All we can hope for is that the rest of the tournament is remembered for much more traditional footballing reasons. We can not ignore the politics which have marred the beautiful game but at least put them on hold until after the world cup.
There many things in life which are more important than football, football is there to offer distraction from everyday strife and as possibly the biggest and greatest sports tournament held, we would argue it should be enjoyed as such.