World Cup 2014 | Neymar's golden boot is priceless for Brazil

Brazil's Neymar.

Brazil's Neymar.

Neymar showed why he is carrying Brazil's hopes at the World Cup, scoring twice on Thursday to help the underwhelming hosts escape a disappointing start to the tournament.

With Brazil struggling and down a goal against a spirited Croatian team, Neymar came through to lead his team to a 3-1 win in the opening match, scoring once in each half. The killer goal to make the score 2-1 was a hotly-contested penalty awarded by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura.

"Things weren't going well," Neymar said. "The first match is always difficult, we were anxious, we were nervous. I'm glad I was able to get the goals we needed at the time we needed them."

"He is a special player and we know that," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "He needs to know that we know that."

Brazil got off to a slow start in its home tournament.

Defender Marcelo found his own net while he tried to clear a low cross by Ivica Olic in the 11th minute, stunning the crowd of more than 62,100 packing the Itaquerao Stadium.

But Neymar equalised in the 29th, firing a perfectly-placed low shot that went in off the post.

He said he didn't hit the ball perfectly "but it went in, it's all that matters". AP

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