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Dante on bench

Brazil edge World Cup opener

Bayern man Dante watched from the bench as hosts Brazil opened the World Cup on home soil with a fortunate 3–1 victory over stubborn Croatia in São Paulo on Thursday. Barcelona striker Neymar scored a brace, including a  hugely controversial second-half penalty, before Oscar added a third in stoppage time. Croatia had silenced the home crowd by taking an 11th minute lead through a Marcelo own goal, prompted by a cross from tireless ex-FCB man Ivica Olic.

“The win means a lot to us. It'll calm things down ahead of our next matches,“ commented former Bayern player Luiz Gustavo, a powerful presence in the Brazilian midfield. Dante is in the Seleçao squad but was an unused sub on Thursday.

The crowd at the brand-new arena in Sao Paulo had earlier witnessed a colourful opening ceremony featuring 600 performers and costing €6 million. Three doves of peace were released into the sky, and Jennifer Lopez, American rapper Pitbull and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte performed the official tournament song.

Friday's schedule features a highlight clash at 9 pm CET in Salvador when Javi Martínez and Spain face Arjen Robben and the Dutch in a re-run of the 2010 World Cup Final.