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The result kept Croatia without a win in its last five World Cup matches. Its last triumph was a 2-1 win over Italy in 2002. The Croats didn’t play in South Africa four years ago.

The tournament finally got underway as planned after months of talk about the preparation problems that plagued Brazil since it was picked as host seven years ago.

The troubled Itaquerao, which wasn’t fully finished for the opener, held up without major setbacks to fans or the match itself, although part of the lights atop the pitch went out a few times for brief periods in the first half.

Despite the support from most of the more than 62,100 fans in attendance, Brazil got off to a slow start and allowed Croatia to threaten early. It opened the scoring with one of its first chances as Marcelo failed to clear Olic’s cross. The ball was slightly redirected by striker Nikica Jelavic before the Brazilian defender touched it backward into the goal.

“I stayed calm because if I let myself get down I would have hurt the team,” Marcelo said. “It’s not the first time that this has happened, so you have to stay relaxed to help the team.”

The penalty kick was awarded when Fred appeared to be tugged inside the area by Lovren. The Croats insisted Fred wasn’t touched and at least five Croatian players swarmed around Nishimura of Japan to protest.

Neymar converted his shot from the spot even though Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa touched the ball and nearly made the save.

Neymar had received a yellow card in the 27th for elbowing Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric.

The other Group A match will be played between Mexico and Cameroon in Natal on Friday.