SAO PAULO (AP) — It wasn’t meant to start this way for Brazil.
Defender Marcelo turned and stared off into the distance, his eyes wide open in disbelief after his own goal early in the opening game of Brazil’s great World Cup party.
“It was kind of sad,” he said.
It was almost devastating for the home team.
The vast majority of the 62,000 fans packed into Itaquerao Stadium on Thursday were just as stunned by the 11th-minute error and Croatia’s surprise lead. This was not how they saw it going on opening night.
The Real Madrid player stood still for a moment, bewildered, after skewing his attempted clearance past goalkeeper Julio Cesar and into his own net in the first World Cup game in Brazil in 64 years. Cesar glared at him, then pushed his hands downward in a calming motion toward his teammate.
“It was very tense,” Marcelo said. “The game was very intense.
“I stayed calm because if I let myself get down I would have hurt the team. It’s not the first time that this has happened, so you have to stay relaxed to help the team.”
Luckily for Marcelo, and the country that longs to win the World Cup on home soil, forward Neymar rescued the game with two goals and Oscar sealed a 3-1 win. That final, victory-clinching goal prompted Marcelo to run and leap into the arms of Cesar, his despair turned to joy. He fell to his knees, arms pumping out in front of him, and kissed his shirt.
“It was a spontaneous hug,” he said. “I know how hard it was to get to this point. And it was just relief.”
Marcelo, more than any other player, appeared to experience the same roller-coaster of emotion that the sea of yellow-shirted fans at the Itaquerao and throughout the host nation must have been going through.
Brazil’s win may not have been completely convincing, but the five-time champion, which lost in the final when it hosted its only other World Cup in 1950, showed some grit to come back after Marcelo’s mistake.
“It was very early in the match, but it felt good that we could recover quickly and we could turn around the score,” Marcelo said. “It showed how ready we are for the World Cup.”
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