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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Don Cuddy: Brazil opens World Cup with lucky win

  • Brazil 3, Croatia 1: Drama aplenty in the opening game with Brazil gaining a lucky 3-1 victory in spite of playing poorly. Never overawed, Croatia produced a wonderful team performance, marshaled by the peerless Luka Modric in midfield. An own goal by Marcelo after only 11 minutes stunned the hosts, the stadium and the entire...
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  • Editor’s note: Soccer expert Don Cuddy will contribute his insights on the World Cup after every day’s action.   THE DAY THAT WAS   Brazil 3, Croatia 1: Drama aplenty in the opening game with Brazil gaining a lucky 3-1 victory in spite of playing poorly. Never overawed, Croatia produced a wonderful team performance, marshaled by the peerless Luka Modric in midfield. An own goal by Marcelo after only 11 minutes stunned the hosts, the stadium and the entire country until poster boy Neymar tied it before halftime. Brazil lacked fluency and were struggling to make any impact after the break, until the Japanese referee gifted them a penalty out of thin air after 71 minutes. It was a game changer. Neymar’s shot eluded goalkeeper Pletikosa, who will want to forget this game. He was beaten in the final minutes by a weak shot from Oscar and looked at fault for the opening goal also. Croatia were hunting a late equalizer and might have had one, but another questionable decision from the officials ruled out a tying goal. This result flattered a nervous Brazilian team that needs to improve quickly, particularly at the back, if they are to retain any hope of winning it all. Soccer can be cruel as Croatia learned. They had chances and doubtless feel aggrieved but will take confidence from this courageous display.   THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN BRAZIL   Day One and we already have a villain. The first man home from Brazil should be Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura for his appalling decision to award Brazil a penalty kick at a time when they looked very short of attacking ideas. He won’t be vacationing in Croatia anytime soon.   TODAY'S ACTION   There is soccer enough to satisfy the most voracious fans today with the standout fixture the clash of two heavyweights. In Group B, Cup holders Spain meet the Netherlands in a repeat of the 2010 final in South Africa. That game went to extra time before Spain edged it 1-0. I expect them to repeat that score line this afternoon. The other teams in Brazil’s group, Mexico and Cameroon, play this morning in what should be an open attacking game. Anything could happen here. Also in Group B, Chile take on Australia in the final game of the day.   NOTES   Despite fears of disruptions, opening day passed off without major incidents. The stadium in Sao Paulo looked great, the playing surface was impeccable and although it was not shown on television here, the opening ceremony featuring J-Lo was getting rave reviews elsewhere. There was one glitch during the game when half of the stadium floodlights went out after 16 minutes but they were restored before darkness fell. The television feed was superb with fantastic camera angles on every play. Replays were inserted seamlessly to avoid missing any of the live action. It’s all looking good folks!   Want to talk World Cup with Don? Email him at 13cilleanna@gmail.com.
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