Eight talking points from the first day of the 2014 Wold Cup.
Don't overreact to Brazil's showing
Even players of the highest level can get a case of the jitters. Brazil looked scatterbrained to start the match and didn't really settle in until after the (cough) penalty kick. Brazil has some tactical issues to work out but matches against a Mexican side that was horrid during qualification and a Cameroon team long removed from the days of Roger Milla will give the hosts two matches to work out the bugs going into the knockout stage.
It's okay to react to Brazil's goalkeeper issues
As much as there's no need to panic over Brazil's play on the field, there is definitely cause for concern in goal. Julio Cesar was extremely shaky in goal against Croatia. He struggled with simple shots and flubbed the cross that should have led to Croatia's second goal. It seems like the ever-present Brazilian concern of World Cups gone by is surfacing again for the hosts in 2014.
Croatia's goalkeeping issues aren't any less drastic
You can't fault Stipe Pletikosa for the penalty kick. He did well guessing right and getting to the ball. However, the Croatian keeper reacted slowly on two goals that seemed saveable for a keeper of World Cup quality. Pletikosa looked like he was treading mud as he scrambled to Neymar's 20-yard roller, and then again on Oscar's toe poke in injury time. Croatia is unlikely to score enough goals to compensate for poor goalkeeping. Pletikosa has to play better.
Brazil actually had 2 goals that should have never been
The main talking point about the opening match of the World Cup was the penalty kick. However, Brazil's third goal should have been stopped near midfield before Oscar ever received the ball to score. Croatia's Ivan Rakitic' was in possession near midfield when Brazil's Ramires clearly tripped him up to win the ball and spring Oscar for the injury time goal. Another blotch on Yuichi Nishimura's resume for the night.
Neymar lived up to the billing
In addition to scoring a brace, the young Brazilian number 10 was creative, quick and captivating to watch throughout the game. His decision making was as quick and decisive as his footwork and he, along with Oscar were clearly Brazil's two best players.
Croatia missed Mario Mandzukic'
Nikica Jelovic was poor Thursday. The Hull City front man was constantly on a different page than his teammates and did little to hold the ball up in a gameplan that desperately required him to do so. Mandzukic' will return against Cameroon June 18, and Croatia should benefit greatly from his return.
Croatia need to get their playmakers into position to make plays
Croatia as a team sat deep and tried to catch Brazil on counterattacks, which is understandable tactically. However, their two top playmakers in central midfield rarely got within 25 yards of goal. Modric seemed to play more of a defensive midfield role, collecting the ball deep and looking to play laterally. Rakitic' did not live up to the hype surrounding him entering the tournament, making very little contribution in the match overall. One would imagine these two creative players would become involved further up the field against Mexico and Cameroon. If coach Niko Kovac' continues to hold them deep, his side will struggle to advance from the group.
It's time for instant replay on penalty kicks
FIFA made a great decision implementing goal-line technology in this tournament. They drastically need to install instant replay on penalty kicks for 2018. The game has become too fast and players too artful with their deception for referees to be expected to catch every dive or handball. In the three to five minutes spent arguing a call and taking down names for ensuing yellow cards, an official in a booth could be reviewing penalty decisions and calling them down to the center referee. Cheating, or the more politically correct term, embellishment, is the worst part of the game. FIFA needs to do something to correct it.