Brazil fights hard to get a 1-0 win over Croacia
Brazilians had to withstand a threatening Croatian onslaught in the second half to clinch victory. Only the sure hands of AC Milan goalkeeper, Dida, who has looked fallible at times, kept Croatia at bay.
In fact, it took a moment of brilliance from Kaká, a midfielder who plays for AC Milan, to make the difference. Taking a pass from the veteran Brazilian captain, Cafu, in the 44th minute, he swiveled sharply left past two Croatian players on the edge of the area.
After looking up quickly and without breaking his stride, he shot an unstoppable left-footed drive into the top left corner of the net. That was one of the best goals in the Cup, made in the grand tradition of Brazilian artistry.
Brazilian fans, who had been uncharacteristically silent for most of the first half, erupted and the steeply banked stands were transformed into a pulsing ocean of yellow and green.
However, Braziliam football looked ordinary. Its star striker, Ronaldo, who has scored 12 World Cup goals, the same number as Pelé, is clearly overweight. He was a study in lumbering immobility until he was taken off in the 69th minute and replaced by his fellow Real Madrid player, Robinho. If Ronaldo is fit enough to make any impact on this tournament is now an uncomfortable question.
Speaking of striker, Adriano of Inter Milan, was also subdued. With two of the four members of its glittering attacking quartet - Ronaldo, Adriano, Ronaldinho and Kaká - making scant impression, Brazil was a side drained of its customary brio.
However, we know that first World Cup games are always tense occasions and the trophy is generally won by teams who peak slowly in the World Cup.