Scolari blasts Croatia's penalty claim
Referee storm as Brazilian crowd erupt in homage to Neymar
Japanese football fans hung their heads in shame after referee Yuichi Nishimura's controversial performance in the World Cup opener helped Brazil to a 3-1 win over Croatia, further clouding Fifa's showpiece tournament.
Social media in Japan lit up after the official's decision to give a soft penalty to Brazil which changed the balance of the closely fought match. Several posts showed mocked-up photos of Nishimura wearing a Brazil jersey.
Echoing the sentiments of Croatia's furious coach Niko Kovac, who claimed Nishimura had been out of his depth, @sanadamasayuki2 commented: "It's a tough job for us dithering Japanese."
But Luiz Felipe Scolari didn't care.
Instead, he heaped praise on Neymar after the forward scored twice yesterday morning (Singapore time) as the hosts fought back from going a goal down early.
Scolari said his team showed great character after bouncing back and singled out 22-year-old Neymar for his man of the match performance.
"The only thing we want is that Neymar is happy playing ball. He's a special player," Scolari said, after the win gave Brazil a great start in their bid for a record-extending sixth World Cup title.
Brazil fell behind after 11 minutes through Marcelo's own goal but Neymar led the comeback, scoring with a left-footed shot from outside the area and then through the controversial penalty.
Croatia's coach Kovac was furious and said the World Cup could become a "circus" if Brazil continued to get favourable calls.
Scolari, who said he agreed with the call, responded by reminding Kovac that Brazil have won the World Cup more times than any country and did it without any help from referees.
"I'm not going to comment on what my colleague (Kovac) said. The only comment I can make is that Brazil has five World Cup titles," he said.
"Those weren't five circuses in favour of Brazil."
Helped by a large slice of luck, Neymar's dragged shot in the first half trundled in off the Croatian post, before he struck an awful penalty that somehow Stipe Pletikosa failed to keep out.
But that did not stop the 60,000-plus crowd which exploded in delight as fireworks detonated outside.
"This is a dream come true, much more than I imagined," Neymar said, afterwards. "But more important than anything is that our team won."
Given the situation in Brazil, with ambivalence towards the World Cup and police tear-gassing protesters in Sao Paulo just hours earlier, the value of those goals could prove priceless, in the end. - Wire Services.
Follow Neil on the road to Rio
Catch Neil Humphreys in print and on screen every day with The New Paper.
From England's first game to the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 14 (Singapore time), our man in Brazil will be offering insightful, quirky and funny news from Brazil across more platforms than ever before. And his coverage will be guided by you, the reader. Here's what you can look out for from Neil (above) and how you can get involved.
1. Following the Three Lions
Neil will be with Roy Hodgson's men all the way, giving the latest news and analysis from inside the England camp for both the Morning and Noon editions.
2. Postcards from Brazil
In his inimitable style, he will take the reader to the streets of Rio and the beaches of Brazil, getting up close with the people, sampling the samba and, preferably some unisex beach volleyball.
3. Ask Neil - An interactive Q&A video
Every day, Neil will be answering your questions in video blogs. Just tweet or e-mail your questions and he'll pick the best ones to discuss in his exclusive daily videos on the road.
4. Pick a winner - Daily punters' video guide
Ahead of all the big games, Neil will give his scientific, cast-iron score predictions by using the daftest means at his disposal. He welcomes your input on this one.
5. Gone in 60 seconds with... - A video interview
Neil grabs celebrities, footballers, managers and random strangers to get their thoughts on the World Cup - in less than 60 seconds.
6. Wish you were here - City snippets on video
From Manaus to Sao Paulo, he shoots offbeat videos from the cities he visits, discovering Copacabana and Sepp Blatter's top breakfast place (maybe not).
• Whether it's submitting questions or coming up with video ideas, Neil wants to hear from you every day on his World Cup odyssey. So download The New Paper app and follow him at @NeilHumphreys on Twitter and help him navigate his journey around Brazil.