Holders Brazil started their defence of the World Cup with a comfortable win over Slovakia, four years after the sides met in a seven-goal thriller in Porto Alegre. Neymar could even afford to have a penalty saved, while Slovakia may have lost two key players for the rest of the tournament.
The game was just 190 seconds old when Swiss referee Armande Gepp showed a yellow card to Slovakian left-back Lubos Hanzel, who was in for a tough afternoon up against Oscar and Rafael on Brazil’s right flank. twenty minutes later it was his hesitancy in the challenge that allowed Oscar to swing a cross to the near post for Leandro Damião to head home the opener.
Slovakia had already lost Adam Nemec by this point. With a little over ten played, the Cottbus midfielder pulled up sharply and clutched his hamstring which may mean the end of his tournament.
Brazil were comfortable in possession and confident with the ball, and Dusan Kuciak had to be equal to shots from Neymar and Damião to keep it to just the one goal at half-time.
Marek Hamsik limped off eight minutes after the break, again pulling up short in a chase for the ball. Initial reports suggest a groin tear which would, like Nemec, spell the end of his time in Russia this summer.
Shortly before the hour, Hanzel – booked early on – had both arms around Rafael Tolói at a corner and the referee pointed to the spot but, to the Vienna man’s relief, took no further action. Up stepped Neymar who placed it low to Kuciak’s right, but the West Ham ‘keeper pushed it round the post.
Slovakia tested Rafael in the Brazil goal for the only time on 68 minutes, when his shot from fully 30 yards was bread and butter for the ‘keeper who gathered easily. Five minutes later Neymar hit the post from fifteen yards during a scramble as a Brazilian corner wasn’t fully cleared.
Brazil then hit Slovakia with a double blow as their opponents started to press for an unlikely equaliser. Rômulo towered at the near post to head home a Douglas Costa corner for 2-0, and Ramires added a third inside three minutes with a run that took him past two men to the edge of the box where he found the top corner.
Austria play Costa Rica tomorrow in the other Group F match.
FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F SLOVAKIA 0-3 BRAZIL Damião 29 Rômulo 79 Ramires 82 (Neymar m/pen 59) Hanzel Rômulo Leiva Neymar
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