Brazil 3 Croatia 1

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And so the whole crazy shebang shimmies onto the pitch but we’re still waiting for the samba soccer.

Instead we got stiletto finishing from a side who look nothing like Big Phil’s rough and tough team who won in 2002 with a mixture of great defence and great strikers. This Brazil side looks callow by comparison.

And if that’s the favourites for the trophy then the World Cup is wide open. Even Australia might start to fancy their chances.

In Natal’s Ponta Negra resort, up on the north-eastern tip of the country, there were no signs of protest that the event is sucking the lifeblood out of the country.

Nor were there indications in this affluent, highly developed area of full-on Brazil mania.

As a foreigner, you expect Brazilians to have a manic zeal for the match. Everyone ferociously committed to the cause.

Many wear the shirt and fly the bunting but it’s all been fairly restrained here.

In fact, in this city, it’s the Mexicans making the running in the kooky stakes.

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They’ve been marvellously wacky and managed to stay good-natured while drunk.

Tomorrow’s game here promises to be a fantastic atmosphere.

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I fled the first bar I was in. It was deserted apart from me, full of flies and the owner blew his vuvuzela every 30 seconds for five minutes and that was enough.

Now I love vuvuzelas but when I used to blow them I tried to ensure lulls and did it when the game was boring.

On the beach, this seemed like the best spot.

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A couple of young Aussies for company, the waves crashing yards away and the owner of the bar wore a Ramones t-shirt. Just the sort of classy place I like.

As for the game, Croatian hopes were raised after a disastrous 2013 saw them slump in form and the team disintegrate after being consistently one of the best sides in Europe since 1998.

But a new manager can’t hide the defensive deficiencies. They look like two teams in one.

The attacking forces are impressive – Rakitic, Modric, Mandzukic, Eduardo. But the defence is second-rate though they did better than I though they would.

There were fireworks let off for each of the first two Brazil goals and people cheered but it was pretty muted by British standards.

I thought Brazil would score three. But without the ref’s help and with a bit more creativity than to capitalise on unforced errors from Croatia.

Croatia seem to have come out of their slump and if tomorrow’s Mexico-Cameroon game is a draw they will fancy their chances of finishing second.

And writing this just 30 minutes after the final whistle, you wouldn’t know a game had just taken place.

So, watching Brazil in Brazil – well, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Next time, it’s the fan zone for sure.

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