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World Cup 2014: After their 3-1 opening win, Brazil look unstoppable- as long as they get referees like the one from last night


So the World Cup has finally kicked off, and Brazil's 3-1 victory over Croatia in the opening game stuck to the script that says the host nation cannot afford anything but World Cup glory.

All of the other 30 teams will have sat down to watch the game last night in their respective hotels and resorts, and will have come out of it very worried about the prospect of having to face the host nation somewhere down the line.

But it will not be Brazil's flair, style and audacious techniques, reminiscent of the Brazil sides of old, that will have teams worried. What will worry them more is whether every referee will favour the Brazilians as heavily as last night's officials did.

The build up to the opening ceremony was marred by violent protests and the use of tear gas and mace on protesters. And indeed should Brazil win the World Cup due to decisions like the ones made last night, the rest of the footballing world could well be up in arms too.

Croatia began the match well last night and took the lead after a dangerous cross was turned in to his own goal by Real Madrid star Marcelo.

In fact, for the opening stages Brazil seemed almost taken aback that Croatia had come to actually try and win this game, as though they didn't know this was supposed to be their big night, and in particular, Brazil poster boy Neymar's night.

They failed really to get going, dogged by a tireless Croatian midfield and struggling to find the kind of  'rhythm' Brazilians are famed for. But that man Neymar lived up to the hype after darting through the middle and hitting a scruffy, but acutely accurate left footed finish off the inside of the post.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the entire stadium had burst into life, and was an undeniably emotive sight to behold.

The Croatian keeper could have probably done better however and the same could have been said in the second half when Neymar converted a penalty, but the fact that the penalty was given in the first place is by far the bigger issue.

The referee had up until this point been rather cautious, not breaking up the play too much, but pandering too often to Brazil's inclination to make the most of any challenge that came in on them.

Croatia committed 20 fouls during the game to Brazil's 5, which on paper suggests that Croatia were trying to kick the hosts off the park, but the reality was far from that. Craotia played very well, and it was obvious they were getting more frustrated with how many fouls they were giving away, when not all of them were actually fouls.

None more so than the controversial penalty, with striker Fred, who alongside Hulk showed almost no attacking threat, decided to throw himself to the floor when he felt a Croatian hand on his shirt.

It was a clear dive, and yet the referee, in a prime position, could seemingly only see the ocean of yellow in the stands, and hear the uproar from the passionate home crowd, and gave the penalty.

Up stepped Neymar, who scored in spite of his overt run up and with help again from a poor bit of goalkeeping. Croatia, it should be noted, battled on and even had a goal disallowed, but were picked off by Chelsea's Oscar to give Brazil, both in team and in nation, the dream start they wanted.

But it could have been so very different. Referee Yuichi Nishimura of Japan quite frankly seemed over-awed by the pure spectacle and theatre of the occasion. Quick to give a decision in Brazil's favour, this was not a biased or corrupt official, but one that was simply swept away in the sea of yellow, blue and green.

And in fairness to him, the rest of the nation have seemingly followed suit. The match has had the effect that FIFA officials were hoping for, as it has galvanised the nation into World Cup fever.

Not one Brazilian will care that they could have actually lost that game on a different night, and with a referee that doesn't officiate in Japan, and seemingly neither do the Brazilian team.

But with such history behind them of great sides playing incredible football, you would think that they would want to win on their own merit, but Fred's cynical dive to give them the penalty suggests that rather than defy their home advantage and win regardless, they are actively looking to exploit it.

He wasn't the only one, golden boy Neymar made a bit too much of a challenge on more than one occasion, which was ironic given the worst challenge of the game was his elbow into the face of Luka Modric, which gained him a yellow card but could have easily been a red.

However, short of a patented Zidane headbutt, there was no way a Brazil player was being shown a red card in that game.

So, the opening game has brought plenty of controversy, intrigue and an incredible amount of Brazilian passion, but is passion, and it's effects on a game, enough to merit winning the World Cup?

Brazil certainly seem to think so, they have not shied away from the fact that they expect to win the tournament, but if decisions like the ones made yesterday are the reason they win, it would be a rather hollow victory- unless your a Brazilian of course.

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