It wouldn’t be a World Cup without controversy.

Brazil played poorly. The game started with a nightmare: an own goal in the early minutes. And frankly, until Neymar’s goal they were second best. There was  a surge of life in Sao Paulo, when it looked like Brazil might cruise to victory. But Croatia held them until half-time, and the game bogged down thereafter. Brazil got the benefit of a generous penalty, and ended up winning 3-1 in  game that they were outplayed. A generation from now, 3-1 in the record books looks like a comfortable start to the World Cup.

Truth is, the group stage has room for mistakes. Spain lost their first match in 2010; Italy drew the U.S. in 2006. Lethargic Brazil will improve—they have to. There will be hand-wringing about the refereeing and this result, as there should be. But isn’t it so nice to have the World Cup back?


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