Star Football hosted the lucky winners from the Win-A-Trip-To-Brazil promo to an evening of music, drinks and fun as they prepared to leave Nigeria for the beautiful land of Brazil.
The lucky fans will enjoy a 2-week fun-packed experience of the sights and sounds of the land of Samba.
Corporate Affairs adviser, Kufre Ekanem says the celebration event is proof that when Star promises, Star delivers. “We hope you have a mind-blowing experience and implore you as super fans to fly high the #ShineOnNigeria flag while in Brazil,” Ekanem said..
Through #ShineOnNigeria, millions of passionate Nigerians can stay updated on the global football tournament through various social media platforms, interact with the iconic #ShineOnNigeria ambassadors, JayJay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo while being rewarded with Star prizes. (goal.com)
Neymar steals the show in Brazil comeback
Neymar stole the show as Brazil came from behind to open the World Cup with a victory over Croatia in Sao Paulo, but the match turned on a controversial penalty.
The striker responded to the responsibility of being his country’s poster boy by finding the net either side of half-time after Marcelo had scored an early own goal.
Oscar cemented the result with a wonderful individual goal late on but the adulation at the Arena de Sao Paulo went to Barcelona’s Neymar.
His first goal was a low, sweeping effort that crept into the net from 25 yards. His second, 19 minutes before the end, was altogether more controversial.
Dejan Lovren was judged to have fouled Fred in the box. Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura pointed to the spot, despite replays showing little contact had been made. Neymar converted, the ball deflecting in off the out-stretched arm of goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, to spark scenes of celebration.
It ensured a 10th consecutive win for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side but Brazil demonstrated flaws and fragilities. They did not play with the fluency or flamboyance that saw them swat aside Spain to win the Confederations Cup so emphatically last year.
The moments before kick-off had been typically rousing. A passionate Brazilian crowd delivered another fervent rendition of the national anthem. Croatia were no more than an afterthought to most outside the thousand travelling fans.
That soon changed. From the off, Ivica Olic worked tirelessly, chasing lost causes, committing Brazilian defenders. He might have scored after seven minutes only to head Ivan Perisic’s right-wing cross narrowly wide at the back post.
Four minutes later he was at the heart of the move that stunned the home crowd into silence.
With Dani Alves committed upfield, Olic found space wide on the left. His low, teasing cross found Nikica Jelavic who made glancing contact. It was enough to catch Marcelo off balance. The Real Madrid defender watched on as the ball deflected off his ankle and rolled into the net beyond goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Brazil were struggling for rhythm; insipid not inventive. Neymar was fortunate to escape a nasty first-half incident – when he caught Luka Modric in the face with a swinging forearm – with only a booking.
But when they needed a moment of magic, the man whose image had been splashed across every newspaper and TV station in Brazil provided it.
Chelsea midfielder Oscar fought through two challenges and found Neymar.
When the striker turned for goal, moving the ball on to his left foot, he had one thing in mind. The contact was not pure but the shot was unerringly accurate, creeping in from 25 yards, glancing the right post on its way.
On the touchline Scolari was swamped by his players as all 23 Brazilian squad members rejoiced in the overwhelming sense of relief. Fireworks echoed in the streets around the ground.
Croatia, though, were far from finished. Dejan Lovren provided solidity and strength in defence; Ivan Rakitic, the spark and substance in midfield.
For long periods, Brazil struggled to find the zip in their passing, or the vim and vigour in their movement, to elude markers and dismantle Croatia’s effective and organised defensive system.
Dani Alves curled a dipping free-kick just over but that was the sum of Brazil’s second-half efforts as the final 30 minutes approached. That was to change.
Oscar put a gloss on the final score with a tremendous late goal that his man-of-the-match performance warranted. With Croatia committed upfield, he burst forward and toe-poked in from 25 yards, taking Pletikosa by surprise with a low drive.
Brazil are off and running. (BBC Sports)
Scolari dismisses Kovac referee criticism
Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Brazil head coach, insists Brazil did not benefit from a contentious penalty decision against Croatia in Thursday’s World Cup opener despite angry post-match claims from Niko Kovac, his Croatia counterpart.
The Selecao fell behind after an own-goal from Marcelo after 11 minutes before two goals from Neymar, the second a hotly-debated penalty, and a late Oscar strike gave them all three points in a 3-1 win.
Croatia boss Kovac was furious at what he saw as an extremely soft penalty when Fred went down under a challenge by Dejan Lovren, but Scolari claimed he saw nothing wrong with referee Yuichi Nishimura’s decision to point to the spot.
“The ref saw a penalty. He gave the penalty, and he’s the one who decides,” the 65-year-old told reporters after the game.
“And we think it was a penalty as well.
“I’m not going to talk about what the other coach said. All I say is Brazil has five world titles. So Brazil had five circuses to win five cups?
“I understand what my colleague has said, and I respect it, because I think the reason he said was due to the result, and I would probably be complaining if I had lost the match as well. But I didn’t see us getting favoured by the referee. That’s just something that has been said and it will stay said and there’s no point in arguing about it.”
The Brazil boss was positive about his side’s chances in the tournament after the victory and also reserved special praise for Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who delivered an impressive performance in Sao Paulo.
“Neymar took the man-of-the-match award, but if there was a second award it would have to be Oscar’s,” he continued.
“Oscar is a good boy. Before the game I went to him and told him he still owed me a goal and that today was the day, and afterwards he came to me and said he paid his debt.
“But one of the things that we all wanted to see and had doubts about was over the resilience of this young group. Today we know we have evolved at least a bit. There’s still a lot we need to improve to see if this group can take a punch and get it back together to make it to the end of a match with a win.” (goal.com)
Brazil blunder ref comes under fire
The pre-match build-up seemed to all be about one controversy or another, and Brazil’s opening World Cup fixture against Croatia has prompted more conjecture thanks to the refereeing of Yuichi Nishimura.
While Neymar was the name on the lips of every Brazilian fan funnelling out of the Arena Corinthians, the Croats in attendance were echoing the words of coach Niko Kovac in fingering the Japanese in charge as the game-changer.
The award of a penalty to Fred for falling under the slightest of contact from Dejan Lovren was the decision which drew the greatest ire from Kovac, while his players were also unhappy with an elbow from Neymar on Luka Modric which earned him only a yellow card seconds before he grabbed the first of two goals to equalise.
Former World Cup referee Urs Meier was clear in his opinion that Nishimura should not have been handed such a huge assignment when speaking on ZDF after the game.
“Mistakes like this do not happen with referees that are used to refereeing in matches like this. When you are involved in Champions League matches on a regular basis, you can evaluate situations like this better,” Meier claimed.
“There was only little contact. The referee also had a bad angle and he did not even try to get a better angle. Therefore should never have whistled [for the penalty]. If anything, he should have given Fred a yellow card for diving.”
It is hardly the first time that a huge decision in a World Cup match has had people questioning whether or not a referee from a supposedly lesser nation should be given the task of officiating the bigger fixtures, but it is not as though Nishimura has not refereed at this level before.
Indeed, many will remember him for being the man who helped to end Brazil’s 2010 hopes by sending off Felipe Melo in their quarter-final exit to Netherlands.
However, Nishimura has something of a chequered history in his homeland. While he has picked up many awards in Japan and been widely regarded as one of the best officials in Asia, he also courted controversy in 2008 when he allegedly swore angrily at a player.
And when he was awarded with the J-League’s Referee of the Year award last December, one woman in the audience yelled out questioningly: an act seen as demonstrating a huge lack of respect in Japanese culture.
Add in the fact Nishimura has shown red cards to the wrong player so many times that there’s an entire section dedicated to them on his Japanese Wikipedia page, and you have a referee that was primed to cause some sort of stir at this World Cup sooner or later.
But his decision to hand Brazil a gift-wrapped penalty when Croatia were in a position to take something from the game could well be remembered as his biggest gaffe yet.
The World Cup already has a huge contender for the mistake of the tournament. (goal.com)
Yobo admits doubting his World Cup participation
Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo admits that he suffered self-doubt and feared injuries would cost him a place in the 2014 World Cup.
Yobo missed over 5 months of his time at Fenerbahce through injury, before he went on-loan to Norwich in the English Premier League where he missed the last five games to injury as Norwich suffered relegation.
“This is going to be my third World Cup and I wasn’t fit before this time so I’m just happy now that I’m fit and ready and that gives me great joy,” the defender told KickOffNigeria.com.
“Because at a point I doubted myself if I was going to make it here because of injuries. But I’m here now, I’m fit and ready to go.”
Yobo is on the threshold of becoming the first player to reach one hundred appearances for Nigeria, but he says that is not a consideration for him.
“Any other thing that comes after playing the World Cup is an addition, is a bonus.
“My main focus is playing for Nigeria, doing well for Nigeria and if I achieve any landmark, it’s going to be exciting and special as well.”
Nigeria kick-off their World Cup campaign on June 16 against Iran in Curitiba. (kickoffnigeria)