Goalmouth Scramble 2014
Analysis and comment on the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Goalmouth scramble: The good, the bad and the Blatter from game one

Referee Yuichi Nishimura from Japan points to the spot following a 'foul' on Fred. Photo / AP
Referee Yuichi Nishimura from Japan points to the spot following a 'foul' on Fred. Photo / AP

The opening match of the 2014 World Cup featured no shortage of talking points, kicking off the tournament in a style we can only hope continues. Not all was positive, of course, but there was plenty of beauty from the beautiful game. Let's break it down.

The good
- For a bleary-eyed fan stumbling into their lounge shortly before kick-off - having attempted to accrue as much sleep as possible ahead of the 4am starts to come - the Brazilian anthem was the perfect wake-up call. Belted out acapella by the players and the 60,000 sun-soaked locals in Sao Paulo, it will be hard to find a more rousing rendition in the 63 games to follow.

- It didn't have the shock of Senegal over France, or a thumping goal like that from South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala four years ago, but this was a pretty impressive start. Both teams were willing to attack and, at 2-1 down, Croatia looked like they could snatch a point, before Oscar's brilliant toe-poke - evoking memories of Fat Ronaldo's winning goal in the 2002 semifinal - sealed the points.

- The kits. Surely two of the best at the World Cup?

The bad
- Speaking of evocations from 2002, how unpleasant it is to have a hometown decision feature so prominently so early. Unlike the officials carrying South Korea to the semifinals of their home tournament, Brazil hardly need any help with their hosting duties. But that's exactly what Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura provided. While Twitter quickly conjured conspiracy theories about the number of Brazilian footballers in the J-League, or the significant Japanese population in Brazil, this looked like a case of one man desperate to please the home crowd.

- Sky have had 11 months to prepare, having sealed the rights last July, but it looked like the opening match snuck up on them. First their scoreboard featured the flags of Argentina and Algeria. Then there was no scoreboard. Then, rather hilariously, the scoreboard came back but had the time ticking by in two-second increments. It's worth noting that free-to-air provider TV1, broadcasting 22 games, had no such issues.

The Blatter
- Between the scoreboard malfunctioning and Marcelo's own goal, it was an unexpectedly amusing first half. Is it a bad sign when the opening goal of the World Cup induces spontaneous laughter from those watching? In any case, Marcelo hardly lived up to the legacy of another great Brazilian fullback, Cafu, who was watching on from the stands. He also ensured a torrent of abuse for @Marcelo and @Marcello, with angry football fans clearly failing to learn the lessons of the repeated Chris Hoy/Chris Foy fiasco.

- Fred was another Brazilian who hardly covered himself in glory. As poor a penalty decision as it was from Nishimura, that was an awful dive from the striker with an awful nickname.

- Nothing quite gets you barred up for the World Cup like hearing the commentator say: 'And there's Fifa President Joseph S Blatter, watching on from the corporate area.' Truly sends a shiver down the spine.

- NZ Herald

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