Brazilian star Neymar, on his return from injury, proved to be the difference when Croatia took on Brazil in bright sunshine in front of more than 54,000 fans at Anfield stadium in a World Cup friendly this afternoon.
Neymar’s 54th goal in 84 internationals, and his third against Croatia, and an injury-time goal from Firminho gave Brazil a 2-0 win on Sunday.
Croatia, playing for the first time in their new red and white kit, started with Andrej Kramaric as the lone striker. Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic started wide in the midfield, whilst Domagoj Vida was given the left-back birth ahead of Ivan Strinic.
Zlatko Dalic’s side were the more aggressors in the opening stages, forcing Brazil to play back through keeper Alisson early on. Croatia’s opening chance of the match fell to Dejan Lovren playing on his home ground in the 13th minute when he headed just wide from the corner from the right.
Brazil was still struggling to get out of their half and an intercept from captain Luka Modric fell to Kramaric two minutes later but the Hoffenheim striker could only watch his left-foot shot parried by Alisson.
Croatia looked most likely to breakthrough and on the half-hour mark had two good opportunities after Rebic caused havoc down the left but his crosses were not capitalised on by Perisic and then Sime Vrsaljko.
Brazil had a couple of moments towards the end of the first half, but could not fashion any clear-cut chances as both Lovren and Vedran Corluka controlled any danger.
Brazil introduced Neymar at the start of the second half and immediately the yellow and blues looked a lot more dangerous than in the opening 45 minutes. Apart from Marcelo’s long-distance shot, Brazil did not manage to create any real chances after sustained pressure in the opening 10 minutes of the second spell.
Croatia captain Modric exited proceedings in the 57th minute with his Real Madrid teammate Mateo Kovacic taking his place. Ante Rebic, whose energy provided problems for the Brazilian defence all match, nearly opened the scoring a minute later but his header was brilliantly saved by Alisson.
As expected, both sides started to ring the changes and cleared their benches to give everyone a run.
Brazil would, however, take the lead in the 69th minute when Neymar received the ball on the edge of the box and dribbled his way into the box past Vrsaljko to fire into the roof of the net.
— Philippe Verneaux (@PhVerneaux) June 3, 2018
Croatia could not manage to find an equaliser, and despite conceding with the last kick of the game, coach Dalic will be happy with what he saw from his starting eleven for the first 60 minutes of the match before the changes were made. Rebic looked dangerous, Corluka passed another test of fitness, and Vida looked solid at the troubled left-back position.
This was the fourth time the two sides had met with Brazil now winning three and one draw. Croatia now meets Senegal in their final warm-up match before the World Cup on Friday in Osijek.
CROATIA 0-2 BRAZIL
GOALS: Neymar ’69, Firminho ’90
CROATIA: Subasic – Vrsaljko (Jedvaj ’89), Corluka (Caleta-Car ’52), Lovren, Vida- Rakitic (Bradaric ’80), Badelj (Brozovic ’61) – Perisic, Modric (Kovacic ’57), Rebic (Pjaca ’63) – Kramaric
BRAZIL: Alisson – Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo (Filipe Luis ’57) – Casemiro, Fernandinho (Neymar ’45), Paulinho – Willan, Coutinho – Gabriel Jesus (Firminho ’59)