All of Brazil was set to party Thursday night at the World Cup 2014 match opener between Brazil and Croatia at Arena Corinthians stadium in Sao Paolo. It took 29 minutes, but the guest of honor finally arrived. Neymar dazzled the Brazilian crowd of over 61,000 as fireworks burst into the sky over the stadium with every goal scored. After many were wondering would Neymar live up to the hype leading into Brazil’s World Cup, the world got their answer Thursday.

Neymar, Brazil’s poster boy who plays talisman for Barcelona, proved to be the difference in the 3-1 victory for Brazil. As great as Neymar was however, he will not be the topic of discussion tomorrow at water coolers across the world. Mired in controversy, was the penalty in the box called by Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura. Brazilian striker, Fred maneuvered his way into the box and then abruptly flung himself to the ground after a feather like touch by Croatian defender and Southampton centre-back Dejan Lovren.

Referee Yuichi Nishimura gives yellow card Referee Yuichi Nishimura (R) of Japan shows the yellow card to Croatia's Dejan Lovren (2nd R), for a foul on Brazil's Fred (unseen), during the 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014 REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Nishimura awarded the penalty to Brazil, which Neymar danced into the left hand side of the net, and the game changed permanently.

This was a great game to watch, full of breathtaking moments and tremendous technical skills by both sides of the pitch. Essentially, this was a game of two halves. No, not the first 45 minutes and the second 45 minutes, but rather, the first 30 minutes of the game, and the final 60 minutes of the game.

All eyes were on the home nation in the days leading up to the match as the world wondered was Brazil really the best team in this tournament, or simply, the hometown betting favorite. As earlier predicted, Croatian coach, Niko Kovac, believed all the pressure would be on Brazil, especially in the opening minutes. True to prediction, the Brazilian team struggled out of the gate. They looked lost, slow and nervous as they allowed too much space for the Croatian attackers to maneuver in.

Early in the match, Croatia had the Brazilian fans holding their breath as a great cross by Ivan Perisic was headed by his Wolfsburg teammate, Ivica Olic just wide of the net. Upon replay, it showed Olic should have found the back of the net, but his eyes were closed and he simply missed wide. Had his eyes been open, it would have been a for sure goal and it seemed early on that Brazil had dodged a bullet.

Ivica Olic goes for the header DATE IMPORTED:12 June, 2014Brazil's Thiago Silva (L) challenges Croatia's Ivica Olic for the ball during their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Fans roared for their home team early, especially every time Neymar touched the ball, however, those roars of excitement turned to cries of dismay as Olic took advantage of more open space in the 11th minute and fired a great cross into the box that nicked off teammate Nikica Jelavic’s foot and then bounced right off a confused and befuddled Marcelo that rolled into the net for an own goal. Never in the history of the World Cup, has Brazil suffered an own goal.

Suddenly, the stadium was quiet and the reality that Brazil might be the only team in World Cup history to lose their opening match.

Marcelo Scores own Goal Brazil's Marcelo (L) scores his own goal as Croatia's Nikica Jelavic (2nd L), Brazil's David Luiz (C), Luiz Gustavo and Julio Cesar look on during their 2014 World Cup opening match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014 REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Thankfully, that own goal seemed to finally wake up the Brazilian team and they began to calm their nerves, and play more free and fluid. When Neymar scored the equalizer with wonderful foot action in the 29th minute, this was the team that everyone thought would show up for Brazil.

The Sao Paolo skies, erupted in fireworks as the entire nation finally had reason to celebrate.

Fireworks over Arena Corinthians Stadium An aerial view shows fireworks over the Beira-Rio stadium during its opening ceremony in Porto Alegre April 5, 2014. The stadium will be one of the stadiums hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer matches. REUTERS/Diego Vara

In the second half, the Brazil style of play that we are accustomed to finally revealed itself: stellar defense, patience, and the attacking force of a cobra.

As much of a great game and celebration this was, this was more of a game about the controversy surrounding the penalty kick call in the 69th minute, and the lackluster goalkeeper play by Croatian keeper, Stipe Pletikosa. Eight years ago in the 2006 World Cup against Brazil in Group Play, Pletikosa was brilliant, stopping almost everything that came near him with the exception of a truly remarkable goal by Kaka. I wrote yesterday, that Pletikosa needed to have an even better game in goal this time around if Croatia had any chance to beat Brazil. Unfortunately, Pletikosa seemed eight years older and slower in the goals scored by Neymar (29’) and Oscar (90+1’).

As for the controversy in the 69th minute? Hopefully, it is not a sign of things to come as we will see literally hundreds of penalties called in the 2014 World Cup, and no fan wants to see a game decided by a flop. Save the acting for the Academy Awards and let’s get down to futbol.

“If everyone saw in the stadium that this was a penalty, please raise your hand. This is ridiculous.” Said an angry and upset Niko Kovac after the loss.

Croatia did rally late however, with a couple of ample opportunities but it was not to be, as Brazil’s Oscar was able to score easily in transition in the first minute of stoppage time. After the match, Brazil’s superstar Neymar said, “It was better…it was better than what I expected. I was hoping and wishing for the victory. Starting the World Cup with two goals was more than I could have hoped for.” If today’s match was any indication, Neymar is on his way to the infamous golden ball trophy.

Game Notes:
Before today, 8 out of the last 12 opening games had produced one goal or less. After today, Neymar has an 18 percent chance of winning the Golden Boot. Neymar’s two goals today now net him six goals in his last four appearances for Brazil. Luis Gustavo, successfully completed all 35 passes he attempted in the first half of the match. Neymar’s penalty kick was the first goal scored by a Brazilian player since Ronaldinho vs. China in 2002. Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic, from Bayern Munich fame, did not play in the match due to suspension. By conceding only five fouls vs. Croatia, this was Brazil’s lowest total in any World Cup match since 1966.