Matt Traub

Five things about Brazil-Croatia

Created on Jun. 12, 2014 7:38 PM EST

1. Oscar was Man of the Match. Neymar's first goal does not happen unless Oscar gets stuck in on a challenge in midfield. Oscar also had several prescient passes that teammates were unable to see the game the same way as he did, or else they would have had scoring opportunities. He also was unlike the assumed No. 10 in that he often drifted to the flanks so that Neymar and Hulk could cut inside on defenders. Oscar was terrific throughout the early part of the Premiership with Chelsea before tiring late on, but based on this performance, he will be the key man for Brazil going forward. Not often does a player get two goals and not be Man of the Match, but in this case, Oscar deserved it over Neymar.

2. Diving's a part of the game. People can hate on the move by Fred, but that's on the referee to ignore diving -- or, even better, call the yellow card on Fred for simulation. But stop complaining about the diving. It's as much a part of the game as traveling is in the modern NBA, or doctoring a ball as a pitcher in baseball. It happens.

3. Croatia is good. Luka Modric was influential and while Nicole Jelavic was not effective up front, that won't be a problem in the next two games because Mario Mandzukic returns after a suspension dating from his last World Cup qualifier. Many people, just because they know Mexico better, did not have Croatia as group runner-ups. They should now. Croatia's commitment to the attack will be its downfall against higher-level teams such as Brazil, but it should be effective against Cameroon and Mexico. Now, that they have put in such a good showing against Brazil, they will be watched closer.

4. Brazil's defense is worrying. Look, anybody who's watched La Liga knows that Dani Alves and Marcelo are not exactly defensive demons. Add David Luiz to that group, and Thiago Silva is going to be a very busy man in the back four. But even with that, Alves and Marcelo were poor on the flanks. Croatia's offensive philosophy was worked through Modric spreading it out wide, then trying to get crosses in. That's how the first goal resulted, and that's how any other solid Croatian chance was created. Silva spent too much time having to run out to the flanks after Alves was caught out, and neither Luiz Gustavo or Paulinho (before he was subbed out) were quick enough in filling that space that Silva vacated. This is going to be part of the Brazil plan going forward, fine. But Brazil's going to have to have the edge in possession because a team with good flank play can expose that.

5. ESPN will be missed after the Cup if finished. American fans are so, so lucky. They have, in ESPN's current crew, coverage that should be rated every bit the equal of any coverage in the world. The ghosts of Dave O'Brien past are well and truly buried. That it reports on any protests without fear is also to be respect.

Loading ...