Brazil got its 2014 World Cup tournament off to a confident start yesterday with an emphatic victory against plucky but limited opponents in Sao Paulo. But enough about the Brazilian police’s bruising triumph against roughly 300 protesters, two CNN journalists and an Associated Press photographer that got too close to the action.
The World Cup is here and so is Mr Live Wire; so buckle up.
It was “Dia dos Namorados” yesterday, which is Brazil’s equivalent of Valentine’s Day. And the State celebrated by bringing out its expensive new riot gear to batter demonstrators who were complaining about the gross misuse of taxpayers’ funds on the World Cup. Love hurts; but irony sometimes hurts more.
At the Arena de Sao Paulo, there was a slightly more edifying display of love as 22-year-old wonderkid, Neymar, marked his World Cup debut with two goals, which is twice what Argentine star Lionel Messi managed in two tournaments combined. But then Messi never had the benefit of swooning Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura, who gave a sterling performance for anyone who is either a Brazilian supporter or stands to benefit from the host nation doing well in the competition.
Neymar might have been ejected in the first half, when Brazil trailed 1-0 to a Marcelo own goal, as he mistook Croatia playmaker Luka Modric for a protester and flattened him with a chop to the jaw. Nishimura produced a caution rather than a red card.
And, in the second half, Fred flopped on his back so casually inside the penalty area that the Woodbrook police might have charged him with soliciting. Nishimura awarded a penalty instead, which Neymar converted for the game’s decisive goal.
On either side of that debatable penalty were precise finishes from Neymar and Oscar past Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa who looked as though he was standing in cement at the time.
It was a bitter blow for the defiant Croatians and tireless 34-year-old attacker Ivica Olic who spent so much time screaming at his teammates that even Gerald Hadeed covered his ears.
But, at the final whistle, Brazil had managed a 3-1 triumph and an awkward assignment and stuttering performance seemed to bear the mark of a job well done. Somewhere in Sao Paulo, a few hundred riot police must have raised their glasses.
It was a good day for the establishment.