Well, that was ugly. In the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, heavy favorites and home field powerhouse Brazil came off the field with a 3-1 victory over Croatia, a win that felt less like a great team asserting its dominance over the second-best team in its group and more like a lucky victory with some very friendly home-field advantage provided by the officials. Brazil looked tentative at points and anxious at others, and after scoring the first points of the tournament on themselves, downright despondent.
While Neymar Jr., the star forward who might be the most popular player on the Brazilian national team, wound up with a pair of goals to his name, his second point came off of a penalty kick, a dicey affair that, upon any kind of replay, was very clearly the kind of flop that has made the sport famous. His first goal, at 29 minutes in to tie the game, wasn’t his finest hour, either, but at least it wasn’t awarded under tricky circumstances.
For anyone still in the mood to argue about whether Fred’s dive (yes, he’s one of those soccer players that goes by one name) was actually a dive, here’s the cover of today’s O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper. If you can’t open the link at work or don’t want to get sucked down the Twitter rabbit hole, the headline reads “Arigato,” which, as Styx fans and Japanese speakers know, is “thank you” in Japanese, because the referee who awarded the penalty on the dive was from Japan, you see.