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