Oscar made one, scored one and had a hand in the other goal as hosts Brazil got their World Cup campaign to a winning start, coming from behind to defeat Croatia 3-1.
Oscar and David Luiz both played the full 90 minutes for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side, with the former impressing throughout and having a hand in all three goals, netting the game-sealing third with a clever toe punt from outside the box. Ramires was a late substitute and helped assist his side’s final goal.
An own goal by Marcelo gave Croatia a surprise lead early on but a goal either side of half time from Neymar – the second a penalty – added to by Oscar in stoppage time gave Brazil a precious opening-day win.
The match begin with the hosts understandably on the front foot but it was Croatia who fashioned the first two opportunities of the match, the second of which they took a shock lead from.
Ivica Olic, the former Bayern Munich striker who had a penalty saved by Petr Cech in the 2012 Champions League final, had already glanced a header just wide when he delivered a teasing low cross from the left. His delivery was missed by both David Luiz and Nikica Jelavic, the Hull striker, but not the unfortunate Marcelo who diverted the ball into his own net from close range. Ten minutes had been played.
Oscar, starting wide on the right, made Brazil’s first meaningful attack of the match, bending in a wicked cross from deep that flashed across the Croatian six-yard line but narrowly ahead of the sliding Fred and Neymar.
Our and Brazil’s number 11 was again at the heart of good Seleçao offensive play, first winning a corner and then cutely playing in Paulinho who fierce shot was parried to safety by Stipe Pletikosa, the Croatian keeper.
A minute later Oscar was denied an early contender for goal of the tournament when he curled a wonderful left-footed effort goalwards from 25 yards out, but it was well stopped by the flying Pletikosa. Neymar had earlier wreaked havoc with a penetrating run.
And it was the Brazilian superstar who levelled matters up with 28 minutes gone, largely thanks to the brilliance and tenacity of Oscar in midfield. Having already shielded the ball while on the ground he managed to retrieve possession having been dispossessed, scrap his way past a pair of Croatian challenges and squeeze the ball through to Neymar who picked his spot – in off the post – from 20 yards out.
There were no more goals in an entertaining first half of the tournament but there was time for one more piece of Oscar magic; this time he won the ball off Olic deep inside the Croatian half and almost played in Hulk. By that stage Oscar had spent some time on the left-hand side of the pitch, but by the start of the second period he was back on the right.
It was from that position that he delivered another dangerous low cross from which Brazil would eventually take the lead with 20 minutes remaining. His ball in was controlled by Fred, and the big striker, with his back to goal, fell under a challenge from Dejan Lovren. A penalty was awarded and then converted by Neymar, despite Pletikosa getting two hands to the ball.
Almost immediately it required a stretching David Luiz to divert a dangerous Croatian cross over the bar. The defender almost made a positive impact at the other end with 15 minutes to go, getting his head on to yet another glorious Oscar cross but heading wide.
Brazil escaped a couple of late scares, including a goal harshly disallowed for a foul on Julio Cesar. With three minutes remaining Scolari sent on Ramires, for the goalscorer Neymar, and his impact was instant. He hustled a Croatian off the ball and Oscar picked up the pieces before driving at the red-shirted defence. His early-taken shot was perfectly placed and the game’s outstanding player had been rewarded with a goal.
Brazil continue their World Cup campaign on Tuesday, when they play Mexico.