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Brazil

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Firmino ready to take his chance

Brazil
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Brazil show growth, but improvement needed

Brazil's Neymar was immune to the expectations of a nation and led the host country to a 3-1 victory over Croatia in Group A.

For the past two years, you've heard this columnist's concerns. That the stars of the Brazilian national team are young, and this could hinder their progress to a sixth world title. The first game of the World Cup showed something different. Oscar and Neymar, both just 22 years old, played like men. The national team did as well.

- Vickery: Debut reveals Brazil's flaws

- McIntyre: Cesar saves the day for Brazil

But it's not because the team is ready. They're not. There are flaws to be eliminated, like taking time to play the correct pass, penetration -- alongside a lack of support to offer passing options. Twice in the first half, Oscar received the ball on the right without anyone to pass to, and he had to cross it.

Brazil's World Cup campaign started off in celebratory fashion.
Brazil's World Cup campaign started off in celebratory fashion.

Crossing too much isn't the way to breach the opposing defence. You have to penetrate, as Paulino -- who didn't play well -- finally did 20 minutes into the first half.

Brazil had four players beyond the halfway line. Neymar, the best of all; Oscar, tactically perfect, the king of dispossessions during the game; David Luiz; and Luiz Gustavo.

Another plus point was the behavior of the fans. They were soccer fans! They understood the difficulty of the game and got behind the team.

Collectively, there's a lot to improve on. But the victory is worth a great deal, showing they have the mettle and competitiveness to defeat an extremely tough opponent.