An Marcelo own goal in the 11th minute gave Croatia a deserved lead for its enterprising approach, but Neymar equalized with his 32nd international goal in the 29th minute.
The game was decided in the 71st minute on Neymar's second goal, this time from the penalty spot after Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura ruled Dejan Lovren fouled Fred in the area, but replays showed the Brazilian fell on his own.
Oscar added a late goal for Brazil in stoppage time -- a bouncing toe-poke that fooled keeper Stipe Pletikosa -- to the relief of the the crowd at Arena Corinthians after sustained Croatian pressure.
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June 12 in Sao Paulo
Brazil 3 Croatia 1. Goals: Neymar 29, pen. 71, Oscar 90+1; own goal 11.
Brazil -- Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Gustavo, Hulk (Bernard, 68), Oscar, Neymar (Ramires 88), Fred.
Croatia -- Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Lovren, Vrsaljko, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Kovacic (Brozovic, 61), Olic, Jelavic (Rebic 78).
Yellow Cards: Brazil -- Neymar 27; Croatia -- Corluka 65, Lovren 70.
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan).
Group A Standings:
PTS TEAM W-T-L GF/GA
3 Brazil 1-0-0 3/1
0 Cameroon 0-0-0 0/0
0 Croatia 0-0-1 1/3
0 Mexico 0-0-0 0/0
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MAKING A LIST: Neymar became the sixth Brazilian to score two goals in Brazil's opening game of the World Cup but the first since 1962 ...
Brazil Two-Goal Scorers:
1938 Peracio (6-5 vs. Poland)
1950 Ademir (4-0 vs. Mexico)
1954 Pinga (5-0 vs. Mexico)
1958 Mazzola (3-0 vs. Austria)
1962 Amarildo (2-0 vs. Mexico)
2014 Neymar (3-1 vs. Croatia)
Barra Funda Update ...
CHANDLER SITS. Timmy Chandler, who is competing for the starting left back spot, did not participate in the USA's training because of a leg injury termed minor. He was expected to resume training on Friday at the Sao Paulo FC training center before the USA flies to Natal ahead of Monday's opener against Ghana.
On the Ground ...
PROTESTS SMALLER. While there were clashes in Sao Paulo in the hours before the opener, it should be noted that the numbers involved were much smaller than in 2013 when Brazilians protested en masse during the Confederations Cup.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered east of downtown Sao Paulo but still far from the Arena Corinthians in an attempt to cut off the road to the stadium, and they clashed heavily armed police firing tear gas, rubber bullets and noise bombs. At least five people, including CNN producer Barbara Arvanitidis, were injured in clashes. The number of demonstrators is consistent with the crowds that have turned out in recent months.
Sao Paulo police taking part in World Cup security in a briefing on final instructions. (Photo: handout from PM) pic.twitter.com/C7nPuv6hCJ— Gabriel Elizondo (@elizondogabriel) June 12, 2014
On Deck ...
NO CHICHARITO. Mexico coach Miguel Herrera named Guillermo Ochoa over Jesus Corona to start in goal Friday against Cameroon. Piojo's choice in goal was the big question mark about the El Tri lineup heading into its opener. Herrera's decision to start Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos and leave out Javier Hernandez, Mexico’s third all-time leading goalscorer, was not a surprise.
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“The team that started against Portugal made me very happy on the offensive [end]," Herrera said. "There was good chemistry between Dos Santos and Oribe.”
Only three players who started in Mexico's 2-2 tie with the USA on April 2 are in the starting lineup: captain Rafael Marquez, Francisco Javier Rodriguez and Miguel Layun, all defenders in Herrera's 5-3-2.
Mexico -- Ochoa; Marquez, Rodriguez, Moreno; Aguilar, Layun; Vazquez, Guardado, Herrera; Dos Santos, Peralta.
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Referee Corner ...
GEIGER GETS SATURDAY GAME. American referee Mark Geiger has been assigned work his first World Cup game on Saturday when Colombia plays Greece in Belo Horizonte.
Geiger's assistants are American Mark Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher, forming the same crew that did the 2011 Under-20 World Cup final in Colombia, the match he calls the highlight of his career.
Injury Report ...
LAHM AND NEUER READY. Germany's injury worries lessened as national team coach Joachim Loew said on Thursday that captain Philipp Lahm, who was also struggling with an injured ankle, will likely start against Portugal on Monday in Salvador -- in midfield rather than in the back four.
Loew added that goalie Manuel Neuer, who had not trained with the national team since he injured his right shoulder in the German Cup final with Bayern Munich on May 17, will also start after having taken part in training on Thursday.